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[hoo-li-guh n] /ˈhu lɪ gən/
a ruffian or hoodlum.
of or like hooligans.
Origin of hooligan
First recorded in 1895-1900; perhaps after the Irish surname Hooligan, but corroborating evidence is lacking
Related forms
hooliganism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hooligan
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And not a thing had been stolen—not a hooligan had dared enter.

    Ghetto Comedies

    Israel Zangwill
  • But it was not even a nobleman's rod; any moujik, any hooligan, could wield it.

    Ghetto Comedies

    Israel Zangwill
  • Even the hooligan was probably invented in China centuries before we thought of him.

    Reginald Saki
  • He must suffer for smashing up my rooms exactly as if he had been a hooligan in the street.

    Dodo Wonders E. F. Benson
  • He is a hooligan; that's precisely what he is, and once I was pleased at his coming to my concert.

    Dodo Wonders E. F. Benson
  • If we'd got to hooligan's half an hour sooner, we might have rescued the girl.

    Motor Matt's Daring Rescue Stanley R. Matthews
  • Then it began to dawn on Matt that the schemers had fallen back on hooligan.

    Motor Matt's Daring Rescue Stanley R. Matthews
  • The family's away for the summer, and hooligan is able to do about as he pleases there.

    Motor Matt's Daring Rescue Stanley R. Matthews
  • "That's a game two can play at, hooligan," answered Harris coolly.

    Motor Matt's Daring Rescue Stanley R. Matthews
British Dictionary definitions for hooligan


(slang) a rough lawless young person
Derived Forms
hooliganism, noun
Word Origin
C19: perhaps variant of Houlihan, Irish surname
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 hooligan

1890s, of unknown origin, first found in British newspaper police-court reports in the summer of 1898, almost certainly from the variant form of the Irish surname Houlihan, which figured as a characteristic comic Irish name in music hall songs and newspapers of the 1880s and '90s.

As an "inventor" and adapter to general purposes of the tools used by navvies and hodmen, "Hooligan" is an Irish character who occupies week by week the front of a comic literary journal called Nuggets, one of the series of papers published by Mr. James Henderson at Red Lion House. Previous to publication in London, "Hooligan" appears, I believe, in New York in a comic weekly, and in London he is set off against "Schneider," a German, whose contrainventions and adaptations appear in the Garland (a very similar paper to Nuggets), which also comes from Mr. Henderson's office. "Hooligan" and "Schneider" have been running, I should think, for four or five years. ["Notes and Queries," Oct. 15, 1898]
Internationalized 20c. in communist rhetoric as Russian khuligan, opprobrium for "scofflaws, political dissenters, etc."

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



  1. ruffian; street tough; goon, hoodlum: Beat me up with your hooligans (1898+)
  2. gun
  3. The Wild West tent of a circus or show (1940s+ Circus)

[origin unknown; perhaps fr a rowdy Irish family named Hooligan of Southwark, London, England; perhaps fr Irish Uillega´n, a nickname for William, with confusion by Americans over vocative ''Oh, Willie,'' spread to all Irishmen; circus sense perhaps related to Western hoolian or hooley-ann or hoolihan, ''throw a steer by leaping on its horns, bulldog''; all senses perhaps related to Irish hooley, ''noisy party, carousal'']

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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