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1. A civilian who follows a military unit from one location to the next, either because the person is closely related to a service member or to unofficially provide goods or services to members of the unit. Daniel spent his childhood as a camp follower. His father was in the army, so he and his mother had to move a lot.
2. A person who supports a group or cause without officially belonging to its organization. I always vote Republican, but I'm a camp follower—I'm registered as an Independent.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
1. A civilian who follows or settles near a military camp, especially a prostitute who does so. For example, The recruits were told not to associate with camp followers. [Early 1800s]
2. A person who sympathizes with a cause or group but does not join it. For example, She's only a camp follower so we can't count on her for a contribution.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a camp follower
You call someone a camp follower when they follow or spend time with a particular person or group, either because they admire or support them, or because they hope to gain advantages from them. Brecht was surrounded by `camp-followers' — crowds of women who seemed to adore him. Even in my day as a player, we had our camp followers. Note: This expression is often used to show disapproval. Note: Originally, camp followers were civilians who travelled with an army and who made their living selling goods or services to the soldiers.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
One who follows a group without being part of it. The practice originated with the families of recruits, prostitutes, and traveling merchants, who would settle near a military encampment. Later it was extended to others who benefited from military installations. The term itself may come from a letter written by the duke of Wellington in 1810. In mid-twentieth-century America the camp followers of rock musicians and other entertainers, mostly young women who followed their idols on tour, acquired the name groupie, which then was extended to any ardent fan.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer