Originally applied in the chase to a lean, worthless deer, then
a collective term for the commonalty, the mob; and popularly to a base
fellow. Shakespeare says, “Horns! the noblest deer hath them as huge as
rascal” [deer]. Palsgrave calls a starveling animal, like the lean
kine of Pharaoh, “a rascall refus beest” (1530). The French have racaille (riff-raff).
“Come, you thin thing; come, you rascal.” —Shakespeare: 2 Henry
IV., v. 4.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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