from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One who is absent without permission, especially from school.
  • n. One who shirks work or duty.
  • adj. Absent without permission, especially from school.
  • adj. Idle, lazy, or neglectful.
  • intransitive v. To be truant.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Describing one who is truant, absent without permission, especially from school.
  • n. One who is absent without permission, especially from school.
  • v. To play truant.
  • v. To idle away; to waste.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Wandering from business or duty; loitering; idle, and shirking duty.
  • n. One who stays away from business or any duty; especially, one who stays out of school without leave; an idler; a loiterer; a shirk.
  • intransitive v. To idle away time; to loiter, or wander; to play the truant.
  • transitive v. To idle away; to waste.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A vagabond; a vagrant; an idler.
  • Idle; loitering; given to shirking duty or business, or attendance at some appointed time or place: especially noting children who absent themselves from school without leave.
  • Characteristic of a truant; idle; loitering; wandering.
  • To idle away time or shirk duty; play truant.
  • To waste or idle away.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. someone who shirks duty
  • adj. absent without permission
  • n. one who is absent from school without permission


Middle English, beggar, from Old French.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English truant, truand, trewande, trowant (= Middle Dutch trouwant, trawant, truwant), from Old French truand, truant ("a vagabond, beggar, rogue", also "beggarly, roguish"), of Celtic origin, perhaps from Gaulish *trugan, or from Breton truan. Cognate with Scottish Gaelic truaghan, Irish trogha ("destitute"), trogán, Breton truc ("beggar"), Welsh tru. (Wiktionary)



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  • I love the older sense of truant, as "stray, displaced, wandering", used by George Eliot in this passage from The Mill on the Floss, describing the Red Deeps, an area of hollows and hills where Maggie Tulliver enjoyed taking her walks. The place, she says, had a charm for Maggie:

    especially in summer, when she could sit in the grassy hollow under the shadow of a branching ash, stooping aslant from the steep above her, and listen to the hum of insects, like tiniest bells on the garment of Silence, or see the sunlight piercing the distant boughs, as if to chase and drive home the truant heavenly blue of the wild hyacinths.

    — George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860), Book V, chap. 1, "In the Red Deeps"

    December 31, 2012