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.
1884, John Ruskin, “By the Rivers of Waters”, in “Our Fathers Have Told Us.”: Sketches of the History of Christendom for Boys and Girls who have been Held at Its Fonts, part I (The Bible of Amiens), Orpington, Kent: George Allen, OCLC 222616845, pages 30–31:
- St. Martin [of Tours] looks round, first, deliberately;—becomes aware of a tatterdemalion and thirsty-looking soul of a beggar at his chair side, who has managed to get his cup filled somehow, also—by a charitable lacquey. St. Martin turns his back on the Empress, and hobnobs with him!
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.
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