- noun a contemptible person, a scrounger, ne’er-do-well, tramp or thief. Toe-rags were the bindings wound around the feet of convicts or tramps in the 19th century. The word had taken on its present meaning by early in the 20th century in both Britain and Australia. During the 1950s and 1960s toerag was an obscure cockney term; it was given wider currency in the 1970s by TV programmes such as The Sweeney and the pop songs of Ian Dury. From the mid-1980s it has been revived by working-class Londoners. In Britain toerag is often used facetiously or slightly dismissively, in Australia it can sometimes indicate approval of one who acts like a (natural, rather than social) gentleman.