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Posted by James Briggs on September 16, 2003

In Reply to: "Dosser' posted by Bob on September 16, 2003

: : : : I heard this in a song lyric. "Just one old "dosser" lurching down Oxford Street, to spend his Christmass lying in the rain." What is a "dosser?" Thanks.

: : : Perhaps you heard "tosser" a UK insult (not used in the US) for a masturbator, loosely meaning a worthless person. "Wanker" is similar, also not heard in the US. The American equivalents are "jerk" or "jerkoff" with roughly the same level of insult and/or vulgarity.

: : A dosser in Ireland is a person who avoids gainful employment and usually depends on charity to survive. Hostels that provide free or very inexpensive accommodation are 'doss houses.'

: Interesting word. Any clues to the etymology?

To 'doss down' is a British term for settling down to sleep, often on a steet where down and outs live. It was also used as a colloquial term among National Service men in the 1950s, where it also meant to settle down to sleep. However, although the beds were hard and the linen rough, it wasn't like being on the streets!
The word dates back to 19C+ and derives from Lat*n 'Dorsus', 'back' on which the sleeper lies. This from The Cassell Dictionary of Slang.