[ kou-uh-buhng-guh ]


  1. (a yell of exhilaration, mainly used by surfers.)

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Word History and Origins

Origin of cowabunga1

Of uncertain origin


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More About Cowabunga

What does cowabunga mean?

Cowabunga is an interjection that expresses excitement or exhilaration, like when catching a big wave while surfing or while performing skateboarding tricks.

Shouting cowabunga is roughly equivalent to shouting woo-hoo or something similar.

Cowabunga is a US slang expression that is used less often these days. It seems to have premiered on the Howdy Doody TV show, spoken by Chief Thunderthud (see “Where does cowabunga come from?” below). It then became associated with first surfer culture and then skateboard (skater) culture. It was further popularized by both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons’ Bart Simpson, who would say “Cowabunga!” or “Cowabunga, dude!” as a catch phrase.

Example: As she rode down the big wave, Dinah yelled out “cowabunga!” and enjoyed the ride.

Where does cowabunga come from?

The first records of the term cowabunga come from around the 1950s. The origin of this US slang term is unknown. It is thought to come from the popular children’s television show Howdy Doody. A character on the show, Chief Thunderthud, spoke a nonsense language in which he would modify words with the syllable kowa. When he was mad, he would say “Kowa-Bunga!” It’s possible that the word filtered down into US culture and was adopted by surfers.

Did you know … ?

What are some words that often get used in discussing cowabunga?

How is cowabunga used in real life?

Cowabunga is used informally to express excitement or exhilaration. It’s often used in reference to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Simpsons, in which cowabunga is commonly used.


Try using cowabunga!

Is cowabunga used correctly in the following sentence?

“Cowabunga, I’m so upset that summer is over.