A late 18th century term, from Irish spailpín.
spalpeen (plural spalpeens)
- (Ireland) A poor migratory farm worker in Ireland, often viewed as a rascal or mischievous and cunning person.
- (Ireland) A good-for-nothing person, often used so-named during a good humored ridicule.
- 1979. Thomas Flanagan. The Year of the French. New York: The New York Review of Books:
- "And they stood you before the magistrates like a spalpeen or a tinker."
- "Sure the French wouldn't bring with them barrels of coppers for the spalpeens of Connaught. It is murder and bloodshed they would bring."
- 2002, Joseph O'Conner, Star of the Sea, Vintage 2003, p. 25:
- The men were mainly evicted farmers from Connaught and West Cork, beggared spalpeens from Carlow and Waterford; a cooper, some farriers, a horse-knacker from Kerry; a couple of Galway fishermen who had managed to sell their nets.