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[guhn-suh l] /ˈgʌn səl/
noun, Slang.
a criminal armed with a gun.
a catamite.
Origin of gunsel
1910-15; probably < Yiddish genzel gosling < Middle High German gensel (diminutive of gans goose); sense of def. 1, by influence of gun1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for gunsel


noun (US, slang)
a catamite
a stupid or inexperienced person, esp a youth
a criminal who carries a gun
Word Origin
C20: probably from Yiddish genzel; compare German ganslein gosling, from gansgoose1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gunsel

1914, American English, from hobo slang, "a catamite;" specifically "a young male kept as a sexual companion, especially by an older tramp," from Yiddish genzel, from German Gänslein "gosling, young goose." The secondary, non-sexual meaning "young hoodlum" seems to be entirely traceable to Dashiell Hammett, who sneaked it into "The Maltese Falcon" (1929) while warring with his editor over the book's racy language.

"Another thing," Spade repeated, glaring at the boy: "Keep that gunsel away from me while you're making up your mind. I'll kill him."
The context implies some connection with gun and a sense of "gunman," and evidently the editor bought it. The word was retained in the script of the 1941 movie made from the book, so evidently the Motion Picture Production Code censors didn't know it either.
The relationship between Kasper Gutman (Sidney Greenstreet) and his young hit-man companion, Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook, Jr.), is made fairly clear in the movie, but the overt mention of sexual perversion would have been deleted if the censors hadn't made the same mistaken assumption as Hammett's editor. [Hugh Rawson, "Wicked Words," 1989, p.184]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for gunsel

gunsel 1


  1. A sexually vulnerable boy or young man; catamite; punk (1914+ Underworld)
  2. A male homosexual (1931+)

[fr Yiddish gantzel, ''gosling'']

gunsel 2


(Variations: see gunsel1) An armed criminal; hoodlum: The reformed gunzl took a quick gander/ The gunsels killed each other off

[1950s+; fr a blend of gonif, gunsel1, gunman, etc]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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