Dictionary.com
definitions
  • synonyms

hoodlum

[hood-luh m, hoo d-]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
noun
  1. a thug or gangster.
  2. a young street ruffian, especially one belonging to a gang.
Show More

Origin of hoodlum

1870–75, Americanism; probably < dialectal German; compare Swabian derivatives of Hudel rag, e.g. hudelum disorderly, hudellam weak, slack Hudellump(e) rags, slovenly, careless person, and related words in other dialects
Related formshood·lum·ish, adjectivehood·lum·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for hoodlum

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples


British Dictionary definitions for hoodlum

hoodlum

noun
  1. a petty gangster or ruffian
  2. a lawless youth
Show More
Derived Formshoodlumism, noun

Word Origin

C19: perhaps from Southern German dialect Haderlump ragged good-for-nothing
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

Word Origin and History for hoodlum

n.

popularized 1871, American English, (identified throughout the 1870s as "a California word") "young street rowdy, loafer," especially one involved in violence against Chinese immigrants, "young criminal, gangster;" it appears to have been in use locally from a slightly earlier date and may have begun as a specific name of a gang:

The police have recently been investigating the proceedings of a gang of thieving boys who denominate themselves and are known to the world as the Hoodlum Gang. [San Francisco "Golden Era" newspaper, Feb. 16, 1868, p.4]

Of unknown origin, though newspapers of the day printed myriad fanciful stories concocted to account for it. A guess perhaps better than average is that it is from German dialectal (Bavarian) Huddellump "ragamuffin" [Barnhart].

What the derivation of the word "hoodlum" is we could never satisfactorily ascertain, though several derivations have been proposed; and it would appear that the word has not been very many years in use. But, however obscure the word may be, there is nothing mysterious about the thing; .... [Walter M. Fisher, "The Californians," London, 1876]
Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper