E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Now called pickpocket. The two words are of historical value. When purses were worn suspended from a girdle, thieves cut the string by which the purse was attached; but when pockets were adopted, and purses were no longer hung on the girdle, the thief was no longer a cutpurse, but became a pickpocket.
To have an open ear, a quick eye, and a nimble hand, is necessary for a cutpurse.Shakespeare: Winters Tale, iv. 3.