Pad foot or padfoot?

Feb 13, 2011
In your bedroom wardrobe...
Hello Chrons,

I appreciate language is ever-evolving but I was peeved today when I wrote the line
and she was grateful the pad foot African wasn’t around to witness their fervour...
and went to check on whether pad foot is a compound word or not.

This is because all I can find is references to the black dog (fair enough) and Sirius something from HP (not fair enough). I'm writing POV in some period between 1865-70 and so ofc the Potter brat wouldn't have been a thing then, but I just can't find out if it's one word or not. I recall growing up with one of those Usborne history books using it as a phrase to mean a thief or stealthy person. As my POV character has a dislike of the 'African' in question, and in context she's using the word to mean stealthy but with its unpleasant, implicit meaning of thief, too.

Can anyone confirm if it's two words (I've used it as such for the time being)? If you've never heard of it, would you be able to parse meaning? I don't want to choose a different word, but I also don't want the uneducated reader to think I mean an African with feet like a tree frog, for example!

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Nov 10, 2008
nearly the New Forest
There is in fact a "pad foot" -- these are flat-rounded feet on cabriole legs for C18th furniture, so if your POV is a cabinet maker... :LOL:

But yep, footpad is nearer to what you want, but to me it isn't exactly right because it doesn't mean stealthy with implications of thief -- a footpad originated as a highwayman who didn't have a horse, ie was on foot alongside the "pad" or path/road, so it's a thief who uses violence or the threat of violence, with no implied sense of being stealthy about it. A cutpurse would use stealth, of course, and London slang in the mid-C19th had "gonoph/gonof" as a thief, coming from Yiddish, I think -- apparently Dickens uses it in Bleak House.

And checking up on gonoph I came across this site which might be useful Glossary of Victorian Slang

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Mar 9, 2007
It just occurs to me that it would sound more natural to say "the African footpad" rather than "the footpad African", as "footpad" is more of a noun than an adjective.

Yes it is a noun rather than an adjective and should be used in this way.

And as The Judge mentions, a footpad was a particular type of criminal, just as were a highwayman, poacher or even 'resurrection man' (ie body snatcher).

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