For the album by New Order see Low-Life. For other uses, see Low Life.

A low-life or lowlife is a term for a person who is considered morally unacceptable by their community. Examples of people who are often called "lowlifes" are Low Life Phil (he lowers cars) this guy is all about the low life. LLP is hard core he never rides higher than 2 inches off the ground. thieves, drug dealers, hustlers, freeloaders, scammers, gangsters, drug users, alcoholics, thugs, prostitutes and pimps.

Often, the term is used as an indication of disapproval of antisocial or destructive behaviors, usually bearing a connotation of contempt and derision. This usage of the word dates to 1911.[1]


Upwardly mobile members of an ethnic group, committed to schooling, education and employment prospects, will often repudiate as lowlifes those who opt instead (willingly or unwillingly) for street or gang life.[2]


The lure of the low-life for those in established social strata has been a perennial feature of western history: it can be traced from the Neronian aristocrat described by Juvenal as only at home in stables and taverns - “you'll find him near a gangster, cheek by jowl, mingling with lascars, thieves and convicts on the run”[3] - through the Elizabethan interest in cony-catching,[4] up to William Burroughs' obsession with the hobo, bum, or urban outlaw,[5] and through to the anti-heroes of Cyberpunk.[6]

Such interest may have a sexual component, based on the subconscious equation of socially low status with lack of inhibitions,[7] as with the Roman ladies described by Petronius: “Some women get heated up over the very dregs and can't feel any passion unless...among the lowest of the low”.[8]

See also


  1. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2006-06-10.
  2. N. Flores-Gonzales, School Kids/Street Kids (2002) p. 107-11
  3. Gilbert Highet, Juvenal the Satirist (1962) p. 115
  4. B. Ford ed., The Age of Shakespeare (1973) p. 57
  5. James Campbell, This is the Beat Generation (1999) p. 6 and p. 39-41
  6. G. Lovink, Uncanny Networks (2004) p. 116
  7. Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 96
  8. Petronius, The Satyricon (1986) p. 142

Further reading

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