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The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: artful dodger

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artful dodger

– someone who avoids lodging in the same place twice out of fear of arrest.

Detail of an original George Cruikshank engrav...
Fagan, the Artful Dodger, and Oliver Twist. Image via Wikipedia

In England, the term also meant either a lodger or an expert thief. The Artful Dodger was, of course, the name of Fagan’s top child-pickpocket in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist.


  • Farmer, John S. and W. E. Henley. A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English. Abridged from Slang and Its Analogues. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1912.
  • Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld. New York: Bonanza Books, 1961.

Note: See “Cant: The Language of the Underworld” to learn more about the background of the American Malefactor’s Dictionary.

One Comment

  1. Lauren wrote:

    There was a movie years ago called ‘The Lodger”. It actually was the nations first glimpse into the mind of Jack the Ripper. Of course, the use of the word dodger did not come up, but I see the resemblance in the way the character was portrayed.

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

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