(A) A licensed huckster, who was obliged to wear a badge. By 5 Eliz., c. 12, it was enacted that “Badgers were to be licensed annually, under a penalty of #5.”
“Under Dec. 17, 1565, we read of ‘Certain persons upon Humber side who ... by great quantities of corn two of whom were authorised badgers.’” —State Papers (Domestic Series).
(To) To tease or annoy by superior numbers. In allusion to the ancient custom of badger-baiting. A badger was kennelled in a tub, where dogs were set upon him to worry him out. When dragged from his tub the poor beast was allowed to retire to it till he recovered from the attack. This process was repeated several times.
“I think that Titus Oates was as uneven as a badger.” —Lord Macaulay.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894