Is there any more 'respectful word' than 'beggars' for these wonderful guys?



In India, beggars don't do anything and ask for money. But here, I see this specific practice to ask for money (in foreign countries).

Check this guy

playing guitar for money

he works harder, shows his skills and asks for money

Well, it's not limited to playing some instruments. At times, they do better job than professionals.

See this video

My question is, morally, I feel that the word 'beggar' for the latter ones is quite offensive. What do native speakers call them? Are they still beggars? If so, I'll still need some better alternative to separate them from our beggars in India! I will never call them beggars (because, being an Indian, I have a different image of a beggar). In fact, I respect them more than many professionals I find around me!

Note: no charity from the beggars/money-seekers is involved in any case.

Maulik V

Posted 2015-09-24T05:34:07.407

Reputation: 66 188

7This is not an answer to your question, but may be related: a "panhandler" is also a person who asks for money by appealing to the charity of passerby, but maybe it has less of a negative connotation to you as "beggar" does. – Yee-Lum – 2015-09-24T06:12:01.397

2As a native speaker, I think this is an interesting question that I was at quite a loss for. – Panzercrisis – 2015-09-24T14:08:52.840

5There's an unwritten rule that if a busker makes you stop and watch/listen, you should put some change in the case. He literally just earned it. – corsiKa – 2015-09-24T14:35:53.573

10Busker or street performers. They aren't begging. – user15138 – 2015-09-24T19:51:43.450

6This is a technicality, but I wouldn't say this street musician is "asking for money;" I would say he is "accepting donations." Most street musicians I've seen leave the case open, but rarely (if ever) directly ask for a contribution. That may vary by location, however. – J.R. – 2015-09-24T20:33:38.487

6Keep in mind that beggars don't do their 'job' for fun, before talking down on them. They're still people, and deserve to be treated with some respect. – Sanchises – 2015-09-24T22:00:27.763

3@sanchises I think it always depends on why they're begging. – Panzercrisis – 2015-09-25T14:55:42.320

2While 'busker' is a great word, and is much more common in the UK and Canada, in America, it's not common, with probably the exception of buskers referring to themselves and others in the same business by this name. The vast majority of Americans would refer to someone like this as a 'street performer' (or less commonly 'street artist'). – huzzah – 2015-09-25T22:55:35.557

3The best word I can think about for them would be a street performer – Jojodmo – 2015-09-26T05:14:17.693

2I think US audiences may be becoming more familiar with the term "busker", at least among those who do it. On the other hand there are two kinds of street performers: one who performs more or less continuously with an open case in front in which people drop their payments at random times, which is what I think of as a "busker", and a group who put on a short program with a very definite beginning and end, after which they go out into the audience to collect. – David K – 2015-09-27T15:44:29.367

1I've seen some well-known performers busking in the past, generally they had all busked earlier in their careers. Normally when that happens they either don't ask for money, and are just busking for fun and publicity, or they do ask for money but then donate it to somebody else (charity or perhaps other buskers, since taking attention away from the regular buskers cuts their earnings). – Jon Hanna – 2015-09-28T11:10:14.380



I would call all sort of artists that are performing in the public for free or donations "street performer".

I found another word, "busker", but I never heard of it before.


Posted 2015-09-24T05:34:07.407

Reputation: 904

19The word "busker" (meaning a street performer) is common in British English. It's also used in Canada, parts of the east coast of the US, Southern California, and probably other parts of the US, but is less common. – Yee-Lum – 2015-09-24T06:09:16.700

1But dictionaries say that busker is specifically for a person performing music and nothing else. – Maulik V – 2015-09-24T07:29:14.917

25In the UK anyone doing some kind of performance would be called a busker, including people who paint themselves gold and pretend to be a statue etc. We wouldn't tend to call a portrait artist a busker, if they only work on demand, but if someone was drawing a picture on the ground, with chalk, that would be considered busking. Basically anything where the person is "continually doing something" and will happily take money for it is called busking. – Max Williams – 2015-09-24T11:19:30.133

5@MaxWilliams The usage you describe is not universal in the UK, though it is common enough to make it into the OED. I, for one, would only use "busker" for somebody performing music or perhaps for something such as stand-up comedy or magic. I wouldn't describe a street artist or an I-expect-you-to-give-me-money-because-I-painted-myself-gold-and-stood-still person as a "busker". – David Richerby – 2015-09-24T12:49:23.857

1@Yee-Lum I live in Southern California, and I've never heard the word "busker" before. That may just be me, though – Jojodmo – 2015-09-26T05:15:27.833


Beggar refers to someone who is unemployed and depends on asking (begging) people passing by for money. Those who do give them money do so out of charity.

Busker refers to a street performer (could be music, art or drama) who performs for anyone walking by in the hope that many will pay them for their time. It could be their only source of income, or just a side job. Those who give them money do so because they consider the busker to have provided them some valuable entertainment.

The OED shows the earliest uses of busk with this sense are from the nineteenth century in Britain. While this doesn't fully explain the inconsistent awareness of the word within the US (as seen in the many comments below!), its relative recency compared to the divergence of US English does help explain in part why it is more common within Commonwealth English.


Posted 2015-09-24T05:34:07.407

Reputation: 2 037


+1 but busker is a person who performs music, just music.

– Maulik V – 2015-09-24T07:28:38.030


@MaulikV That's debatable, Wiktionary for example only says "(often by playing a musical instrument)". Street clowns and magicians could be called buskers, at least in AusEng.

– curiousdannii – 2015-09-24T07:55:53.577

14I call b-boys, taggers, circus acts. quick painters, sketch artists - essentially anyone who performs in the street - buskers. I'm British. – JMB – 2015-09-24T10:20:34.190


Busker is commonly used where I live in the US to refer to all sorts of street performers, not just musicians.

– ColleenV – 2015-09-24T14:12:22.653

43Be aware that "busker" might not be a familiar word to your audience -- I'm a native US English speaker and don't remember ever hearing that word in my life. I would call them a "street performer" or "street artist" – Chad – 2015-09-24T14:41:24.647

1@Chad What verb would use instead of to busk? – curiousdannii – 2015-09-24T14:42:06.330

7@JMB What do you use "tagger" to refer to? In the US, tagging is writing your name or symbol on something with graffiti, and is illegal. Just curious what the other word uses are. – JPhi1618 – 2015-09-24T15:49:33.087

2@curiousdannii I think among music professionals and students, (the people who would be "busking") the term is well known. The people they perform for probably just call them street performers. – Gus – 2015-09-24T15:50:47.260

6Busker is mainly used in British English which is why it may not be familiar to American English speakers. – Alex W – 2015-09-24T18:15:32.703

5In the US, 'busker' sounds slightly archaic - not that you shouldn't use it, it's a great word, and is what people who do it usually call themselves. But you may need to explain it to other people. – MrTheWalrus – 2015-09-24T18:31:07.437


The definition of the verb busk in the Oxford dictionary "Play music in the street or other public place for voluntary donations". The informal meaning is "improvise" (also in the musical sense) There's no ambiguity about it referring to non-musical activities in British English.

– alephzero – 2015-09-24T19:22:38.727

8Busker is not unusual usage in the US in my experience. I've heard it many times. Street performer to me means someone other than a busker, such as a mime, dancer, or magician. – barbecue – 2015-09-24T22:41:38.457

@JPhi1618 in general tagging is an art form that involves highly stylized script and bold colors. It's just as illegal to tag as it is to paint a picture if you don't own the medium. That said tagging is often available at booths during county fairs and by street performers. I love it as an art form. – Mike McMahon – 2015-09-25T06:03:12.277

@JPhi1618 - any form of styling letters/block designs with spray paint is what I would call "tagging". It's a common form of busking in Europe, quick-painting in front of a small crowd, then selling what they've made. It's impressive to watch. – JMB – 2015-09-25T09:33:29.813

2I'm an almost 50 American and have lived on the East coast, mid-West and South and have never heard this, even on TV or movies. – AbraCadaver – 2015-09-25T19:05:30.833

1@AbraCadaver I find it fascinating that there seems to be a divide in whether the usage of "busker" is current/common in US or not. Maybe it's generational? I'm in my 40s living in central Canada and the word isn't unusual. – ghoppe – 2015-09-25T22:57:40.070

It certainly appears to be more a British English / American english divide as shown in google trends. However, it is more frequent now than it was years ago. I, as an individual with singer / song writer musical preferences in my 40s in the midwestern part of the US, am reasonably familiar with the term. Its also part of my home town culture.

– None – 2015-09-26T00:56:58.907

1Interesting, I'm an almost 50 American and have lived on the Northeast and South, but never in large cities. "Busker" is extremely familiar, almost as much as as is "street performer". – Scott Sauyet – 2015-09-27T13:51:37.900


I think you are drawing a distinction between

  1. An otherwise capable individual who asks for money for him/herself by appealing to your mercy (begger) and
  2. Someone offering something of value (their art) for money.

I would say "street performer" would be the right word for the second kind. It's simple, direct and well understood.


Posted 2015-09-24T05:34:07.407

Reputation: 736

4+1 for street performer as more respectful that busker, but would personally use street artist. – T. Kiley – 2015-09-24T15:44:17.833

2@T.Kiley - performer might be a better word if the person was, say, a juggler instead of a guitarist. – J.R. – 2015-09-24T20:31:51.953

2Not very relevant on ELL, but in germany, we say Straßenkünstler which directly translates to street artist as well. – Guntram Blohm supports Monica – 2015-09-25T13:26:10.293


A mendicant (from Latin: mendicans, "begging") is one who practices mendicancy (begging) and relies chiefly or exclusively on charitable donations to survive.

I first saw this word when I was a teenager. It was in the novel "Citizen of the Galaxy", by Robert A Heinlein, referring to beggars. It also referred to a "mendicant's license", meaning you can stand or sit on the street and not be hassled by the cops if you had a license to beg.


Posted 2015-09-24T05:34:07.407

Reputation: 3

6It isn't really any more respectful; it means "beggar", just fancier. – Nathan Tuggy – 2015-09-24T17:42:22.517


Mendicant doesn't imply performing for tips. It is almost entirely synonymous with beggar, except that it tends to be more often used as an adjective than an noun. When it's used as a noun, it tends to refer to someone who has forsaken all possessions and survives on alms

– ColleenV – 2015-09-24T18:15:31.997