[hong-kee-tongk, hawng-kee-tawngk]
See more synonyms for honky-tonk on Thesaurus.com
  1. Also honk·y-tonk·y [hong-kee-tong-kee, hawng-kee-tawng-] /ˈhɒŋ kiˌtɒŋ ki, ˈhɔŋ kiˌtɔŋ-/. of, relating to, or characteristic of a honky-tonk: a honky-tonk atmosphere.
  2. characterized by or having a large number of honky-tonks: the honky-tonk part of town.
  3. Music. noting a style of ragtime piano-playing characterized by a strict two-four or four-four bass, either contrapuntal or chordal, and a melody embellished with chords and syncopated rhythms, typically performed on a piano whose strings have been muffled and given a tinny sound.
verb (used without object)
  1. to visit or frequent honky-tonks.

Origin of honky-tonk

1890–95, Americanism; rhyming compound based on honk
Related formshonk·y-tonk·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for honky-tonk


  1. US and Canadian slang
    1. a cheap disreputable nightclub, bar, etc
    2. (as modifier)a honky-tonk district
  2. a style of ragtime piano-playing, esp on a tinny-sounding piano
  3. a type of country music, usually performed by a small band with electric and steel guitars
  4. (as modifier)honky-tonk music

Word Origin for honky-tonk

C19: rhyming compound based on honk
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 honky-tonk

"cheap night club," by 1898, Southern U.S., of unknown origin. As a type of music played in that sort of low saloon, it is attested from 1921.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper