First attested circa 1608. An early spelling was tatter-de-mallion, rhymed with Italian. The first part of the word is tatter; the origin of the second part is unclear; Ebenezer Cobham Brewer suggested it might be from de maillot (“shirt”).
tatterdemalion (plural tatterdemalions)
- A person with tattered clothing.
1886, Henry James, The Princess Casamassima:
- She took romantic fancies to vagabonds of either sex, attempted to establish social relations with them, and was the cause of infinite agitation to the gentleman who lived near her in the Crescent, who was always smoking at the window, and who reminded Hyacinth of Mr. Micawber. She received visits that were a scandal to the Crescent, and Hyacinth neglected his affairs, whatever they were, to see what tatterdemalion would next turn up at her door.
- tatterdemalion at OneLook Dictionary Search