[ hoo-li-guhn ]
/ ˈhu lɪ gən /
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See synonyms for: hooligan / hooliganism on Thesaurus.com

a ruffian or hoodlum.
of or like hooligans.
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Origin of hooligan

First recorded in 1895–1900; perhaps after the Irish surname Hooligan, but corroborating evidence is lacking


hoo·li·gan·ism, noun

Words nearby hooligan

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does hooligan mean?

A hooligan is a person who intentionally makes trouble or breaks the law with rowdy, unruly behavior, especially with other hooligans.

Hooligan is synonymous with ruffian and hoodlum, but all three words can sound a little too outdated to capture the seriousness of the trouble that such people can cause.

Specifically, the term hooligan is applied to members of groups who use sporting events, especially soccer (football) games, as an opportunity to intentionally cause trouble or incite violence. The practice of doing so is called hooliganism.

The term is most often used in the plural because it almost always implies that there is a group of troublemakers—it is somewhat uncommon to refer to someone acting alone as a hooligan.

Example: The latest match was canceled after hooligans started a brawl outside the stadium.

Where does hooligan come from?

The first records of hooligan in English come from around 1900. It may come from the Irish surnames Hooligan or Houlihan, but this is uncertain. The term hooliganism dates back to around the same time.

The term was first used to refer to members of street gangs. Today, it is still often associated with lawbreaking and violence. This is especially the case for football hooligans (soccer hooligans). Though they’re sometimes described as unruly fans and they may organize based on their allegiance, their lawless behavior at football matches is not really about rooting for a team—it’s about using the opportunity to cause trouble in a large crowd, where things can get out of control and they’re less likely to get caught.

In general, hooliganism is about breaking the rules. Not everyone who is called a hooligan is breaking the law or being violent, but they’re usually causing trouble of some kind. For example, a group of teenagers being loud at a museum might be called hooligans. Hooligans are often young people, but not always.

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What are some other forms related to hooligan?

  • hooliganism (noun)

What are some synonyms for hooligan?

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

How is hooligan used in real life?

Hooligan is always used negatively. Although the word may sound a bit silly, hooligans can cause serious trouble.



Try using hooligan!

Which of the following words is LEAST likely to be used to refer to a hooligan

A. troublemaker
B. scoundrel
C. peacemaker
D. ruffian

How to use hooligan in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for hooligan

/ (ˈhuːlɪɡən) /

slang a rough lawless young person

Derived forms of hooligan

hooliganism, noun

Word Origin for hooligan

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