A larrikin is a person that fits the stereotype of a wiry, bronzed, dirt-covered outback Aussie with a lively personality. In traditional Australian ballads and stories, by such writers as Banjo Paterson, larrikins feature prominently.

The image of the larrikin differs from that of the ocker in that larrikins are perceived as more fun-loving, energetic and often dim-witted. Ockers are the pot-bellied, (usually) older, rough, scruffy men that sit in pubs all day and night in their ruggers and singlets drinking beer.

Larrikins are often great fans of practical jokes, including violent ones. They are usually hard workers of the land and enjoy their beer. Jovial and friendly, they are not unlike Crocodile Dundee.

It is likely that the word "larrikin" came from "larking about" -- engaging in harmless fun or mischief.

Lar"ri*kin (?), n. [Cf. E. dial. larrikin a mischievous or frolicsome youth, larrick lively, careless, larack to trolic, to romp.]

A rowdy street loafer; a rowdyish or noisy ill-bred fellow; -- variously applied, as to a street blackguard, a street Arab, a youth given to horse-play, etc. [Australia & Eng.] -- a.

Rowdy; rough; disorderly. [Australia & Eng.]

Mobs of unruly larrikins.
Sydney Daily Telegraph.

Larrikin is often popularly explained by the following anecdote (which is without foundation): An Irish policeman at Melbourne, on bringing a notorious rough into court, was asked by the magistrate what the prisoner had been doing, and replied, "He was a-larrikin' [i. e., a-larking] about the streets."


© Webster 1913

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