8 Words for Men of Ill-Repute

Good words for bad people


Definition: a dissolute or profligate person 

Many people are familiar with the word, rake, from various forms of entertainment, such as Stravinsky’s opera, and a Rex Harrison movie (both called The Rake’s Progress), or a series of paintings by William Hogath (A Rake’s Progress). Spoiler alert: none of these titular rakes come to a happy end. Rake is a shortened form of rakehell, which in addition to having the benefit of being more obscure than rake, also has the delightful adjectival form of rakehelly.

Ye Rakehells so jolly,
Who hate melancholy,
And love a full flask and a doxy;
Who ne’er from Love’s feats,
Like a coward retreats,
Afraid that the harlot shall pox ye.
—The Bladish Briton (song from The Bacchanalian Magazine), 1793

Definition: an habitual pleasure seeker or merrymaker

No one is entirely certain where the word franion comes from; perhaps, like a bad penny of virgin birth, it just showed up one day and decided to stick around. There has been speculation that it derives from one of a number of French words, but this may have more to do with the habit of attributing to the French many words which deal with licentious behavior than it does with etymological fidelity. The word is most often applied to men, although the poet Edmund Spenser used it to describe a woman.

Hees a franke franion, a merrie companion, and loues a wench well, they say he has married a poore widdow because shees faire.
—Thomas Heywood, The First and Second Partes of King Edward the Fourth, 1600

Definition: (1) A ladies’ man, fop (2) A social parasite

Lounge lizard has been part of our vocabulary for over a hundred years now; our earliest evidence comes from a 1915 issue of Puck Magazine, which lists it as a synonym for lover (along with the words Chopinhead, M. Sen-Sen, and Kuppenheimer, none of which, we are sad to report, have stayed with us). The term has always had the sense of fop to it, and soon after its arrival in our language took on the additional meaning of “social parasite.” And speaking of fops…

”Why I think it is wonderful in spite of all your disdain” he persisted. “That girl is not pretty yet she made all sorts of men, old and young, married and single, lounge lizards and athletes think she was the brightest girl in the lot.”
—Roe Fulkerson, The News Journal (Wilmington, DE), 11 Oct. 1916

Definition: “A slovenly fop” (Francis Grose, A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue)

When encountering a word such as beau-nasty, it matters little that the word is quite obscure (enough so that very few dictionaries, aside of historical treatises on slang, define it); one immediately knows that this will not be a compliment. The word appears to have made its first appearance in print in the second edition (1788) of Francis Grose’s A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, in which he defined it as “A slovenly fop; one finely dressed, but dirty.”

Though the barbers’ apprentices had not adopted the same practice at that time, Lake could not help thinking that his cousin looked more like a beau-nasty than like a gentleman.
Childe Roeliff’s Pilgrimage: and Other Tales, 1834

Definition: a man who acts with deliberate disregard for another's feelings or rights

Sometimes when one finds oneself in need of an insulting term for a man of questionable character a good short word is called for. Cad is almost as short as they come, and despite its diminutive size manages to pack a wealth of ill-feeling. The word is thought to be a shortened form of an early sense of the word caddie (which used to describe a person who performed odd jobs before it took on the meaning of golfing assistant).

”No one but a cad would write a true autobiography. For this reason I sincerely hope the habit that has sprung up of late years in certain American magazines will not spread to this country,” says Stacy Aumonier, the author, writing in The Evening Standard.
The New York Times, 18 May 1926

Definition: a person (especially a man) who leads an immoral life and is mainly interested in sexual pleasure

Libertine did not start out as a bad word. It came from an excellent family (Latin) and had a promising childhood (its first meaning was “freedman”). And then somewhere along the way the word fell in with a bad lot and its meaning took a turn for the worse. In the 16th century the word came to be associated with an antinomian religious sect based in France and the Netherlands, and perhaps due to this later took on the meaning that it typically carries today, which refers to a lack of morality. Libertine may be used to refer to a woman, but it is more commonly applied to men.

May we not hope that the time is at hand, when this dignified appellation will be wholly alienated from exalted libertines and villains, robbers and murderers, blasphemers and atheists; and be exclusively applied to characters resembling the American Washington?
An Address in Latin, by Joseph Willard, and a Discourse in English, by David Tappan, 1800

Definition: a rude or dishonest man; a man who deserves to be hated

Like several other words in this list, blackguard has not always had a specific gender attached to it, especially not in its earliest use, when it referred to the kitchen servants in the households of royalty or nobility. However, as the word wended its way from one meaning to the next (including “servants and hangers-on of an army” and “street urchins”) it gradually took on increasing connotations of maleness. The most commonly used sense (which is still fairly obsolete) is in general reference to a contemptible scoundrel, and in this use is primarily applied to men.

Foote used to say of TH. That he had the stupidity of an owl, the vulgarity of a blackguard, the obdurate heart of an assassin, and the cowardice of a dunghill cock.
—James Makittrick Adair, Curious Facts and Anecdotes, 1790

Lothario
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Definition: a man whose chief interest is seducing women

Lothario is an eponymous word, taken from the name of a character in Nicholas Rowe’s 1703 play The Fair Penitent. The lothario in question is a right proper beast, seducing the married titular penitent of the play (a woman named Calista, whose name has not gone on to mean something else in English). Shortly after publication of the work the name began to be used in metaphorical fashion, going on to become one of our more enduring epithets for a man of questionable morals.

Whilst the gay Lotharios of the age, regardless of the sufferings their broken vows occasion, persevere in the dissipated pursuits, and seldom find any difficulty in obtaining admittance into the most respectable circles, even when they cannot produce one good reason as an apology for their conduct.
—Elizabeth Bonhote, The Parental Monitor. In Four Volumes, 1796




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