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  1. any old or discarded material, as metal, paper, or rags.
  2. anything that is regarded as worthless, meaningless, or contemptible; trash.
  3. old cable or cordage used when untwisted for making gaskets, swabs, oakum, etc.
  4. Nautical Slang. salt junk.
  5. Baseball Slang. relatively slow, unorthodox pitches that are deceptive to the batter in movement or pace, as knuckleballs or forkballs.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cast aside as junk; discard as no longer of use; scrap.
  1. cheap, worthless, unwanted, or trashy.

Origin of junk1

First recorded in 1480–90; earlier jonke, of uncertain origin


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1, 2. rubbish, litter, debris, refuse.


  1. a seagoing ship with a traditional Chinese design and used primarily in Chinese waters, having square sails spread by battens, a high stern, and usually a flat bottom.

Origin of junk2

1545–55; < Portuguese junco a kind of sailing vessel < Malay jong, said to be < dialectal Chinese (Xiamen) chûn; compare Guangdong dial. syùhn, Chinese chuán


noun Slang.
  1. narcotics, especially heroin.
  2. the external genitals: I kicked him in the junk.

Origin of junk3

First recorded in 1920–25; perhaps special use of junk1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for junks

Historical Examples

  • Whilst returning to the junks, they sacked the village and set fire to the huts.

    The Philippine Islands

    John Foreman

  • Of the shell of one they made a kettle, to boil some junks of it in.

  • He pointed, as he spoke, through an opening between two of the junks.

    The Three Midshipmen

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • Once more the fleet, consisting of about a dozen junks, put to sea.

    The Three Midshipmen

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • Some he had seen taken prisoners, and dragged off on board the junks.

    The Three Midshipmen

    W.H.G. Kingston

British Dictionary definitions for junks


  1. discarded or secondhand objects, etc, collectively
  2. informal
    1. rubbish generally
    2. nonsensethe play was absolute junk
  3. slang any narcotic drug, esp heroin
  1. (tr) informal to discard as junk; scrap

Word Origin

C15 jonke old useless rope


  1. a sailing vessel used in Chinese waters and characterized by a very high poop, flat bottom, and square sails supported by battens

Word Origin

C17: from Portuguese junco, from Javanese jon; related to Dutch jonk
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 junks



1803, "to cut off in lumps," from junk (n.1). The meaning "to throw away as trash, to scrap" is from 1908. Related: Junked; junking.

New settlers (who should always be here as early in the spring as possible) begin to cut down the wood where they intend to erect their first house. As the trees are cut the branches are to be lopped off, and the trunks cut into lengths of 12 or 14 feet. This operation they call junking them; if they are not junked before fire is applied, they are much worse to junk afterwards. [letter dated Charlotte Town, Nov. 29, 1820, in "A Series of Letters Descriptive of Prince Edward Island," 1822]



"worthless stuff," mid-14c., junke "old cable or rope" (nautical), of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old French junc "rush, reed," also used figuratively as a type of something of little value, from Latin iuncus "rush, reed" (but OED finds "no evidence of connexion"). Nautical use extended to "old refuse from boats and ships" (1842), then to "old or discarded articles of any kind" (1884). Junk food is from 1971; junk art is from 1966; junk mail first attested 1954.



"Chinese sailing ship," 1610s, from Portuguese junco, from Malay jong "ship, large boat" (13c.), probably from Javanese djong.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper