[ don-ee-brook ]
/ ˈdɒn iˌbrʊk /
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noun (often initial capital letter)
an inordinately wild fight or contentious dispute; brawl; free-for-all.
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Also called Donnybrook Fair.

Origin of donnybrook

First recorded in 1850–55; after Donnybrook (Fair).
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does donnybrook mean?

A donnybrook is a wild brawl or a rowdy dispute.

The word implies a big, riotous scene, especially one that unfolds in public. When it refers to a brawl, it usually means a chaotic free-for-all among many people in a crowded place. Donnybrook is sometimes capitalized.

Example: After the game, a small argument in the parking lot between fans of the opposing teams turned into an all-out donnybrook.

Where does donnybrook come from?

The Donnybrook Fair, in the town of Donnybrook, Ireland, took place for centuries, starting in the 1200s. It earned a scandalous reputation and was famous for its rowdiness, frequent fights, and other wild behavior. It was last held in 1855, which is right around when donnybrook is first recorded as referring to a wild brawl or chaotic scene. Due to its origin in the name of the town, the word is still sometimes capitalized.

It’s pretty impressive that a country fair was so debaucherous that we still use its name centuries later to refer to riotous fistfights and free-for-alls. That word, free-for-all, implies a chaotic situation with no rules—or at least a lot of people not following any rules. And that’s what a donnybrook is, especially when it plays out in public. Picture a saloon scene in a movie: someone spills someone else’s drink, words are exchanged, fists start flying, and the next thing you know, everyone in the place is breaking chairs and bottles over each other’s heads, with the fight spilling out into the street. That’s a donnybrook.

Donnybrook isn’t the only word for a chaotic scene that’s named after a specific place. The word bedlam, meaning “a scene or state of wild uproar and confusion,” comes from the name of a mental institution in London.

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What are some synonyms for donnybrook?

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

How is donnybrook used in real life?

It’s not good to make light of violence, but donnybrook is fun to say, and it sounds kind of old-timey, so people often use it to be a bit funny. It’s especially applied to the kind of brawls that occasionally break out during professional sports games.



Try using donnybrook!

Which of the following situations could be called a donnybrook?

A. a bench-clearing brawl at a baseball game
B. a crowd of people fighting over items at a Black Friday sale
C. a barroom fight
D. all of the above

How to use donnybrook in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for donnybrook

/ (ˈdɒnɪˌbrʊk) /

a rowdy brawl

Word Origin for donnybrook

C19: after Donnybrook Fair, an annual event until 1855 near Dublin
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