This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
what is the origin of "panhandler"
Submitted by Kevin Bugert (Tacoma - U.S.A.)
Signature: Topic imported and archived
Either the noun 'pan', into which the charitable donor placed money, or the goldfields, where hopefuls 'panned' for gold, washing earth and rocks in perforated 'pans'.
Signature: Jonathon Green
End of topic.