View synonyms for pokey


[ poh-kee ]


, Slang.
, plural pok·eys.
  1. Usually the pokey. a jail:

    They put him in the pokey for carrying a concealed weapon.

Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of pokey1

First recorded in 1915–20; origin uncertain; possibly a variant of pogey ( def )

Discover More

Example Sentences

Rat catchers and builders aside, BP has a very different tone to Windsor as huge sections of it are given over to a veritable warren of offices and pokey shared flats in which dozens of royal staffers live and work.

By now, everyone knows how to do the Republican presidential hokey pokey: You put your right foot in.

Instead of pokey World War II–era planes, the communists deployed MIG fighters that were a match for the best American planes.

She jumped up and down and did the hokey pokey and shouted to the rooftops from it.

If Joey got a year in the pokey, then I hope Bernard L. Madoff lives as long as Methuselah and spends all 969 years behind bars.

I'm so glad the old pokey bonnets are gone but o' fashion—the round ones are much more becoming to young people.

She must be a stiff, pokey sort of a person, and I am sure it will be pleasanter without her.

I've got a hunch that if you don't, we go to the pokey and Uncle Peter will be left free to blow up everybody in town.

I see myself living in a shabby house in a horrid pokey street, with two dirty little maids, and I could almost scream.

Here is the poorer Italian colony; organ-grinders, ice-cream-barrow-men, "hokey-pokey" sellers, and their like.


Discover More

More About Pokey

What does pokey mean?

Pokey is a slang term for jail. It’s typically used with the article the, as in Sal got arrested and spent a night in the pokey. 

Pokey can also be used to describe someone or something that moves slowly. This sense of word is intended to be negative or insulting.

Less commonly, it can be used as an adjective meaning small and cramped, as in There’s no way we can have a party in this pokey little apartment. 

Pokey can also be spelled poky.

Example: If it were up to me, all these pokey drivers would spend a night in the pokey—the pokier the cell the better.

Where does pokey come from?

The first records of the word pokey as an adjective come from the 1800s. It uses the same sense of the word poke that’s seen in the noun slowpoke, referring to a person who moves slowly, as well as the verb phrase poke along, as in If we keep poking along on this project, we’re never going to make any progress. 

The origin of the word pokey as a slang term for jail isn’t certain, but it might be based on the word pogey, referring to a type of institution for housing poor people. In this sense, pokey can refer to a jail or a prison: the coppers can send you to the pokey for the night or the judge can lock you up in the pokey for life. Either way, the word sounds a bit old-timey and is typically used to be funny. It’s never used in a serious context. Similar synonyms are slammer, clink, can, joint—all of which are also usually used with the.

When we describe someone as pokey to mean they’re moving slowly, it’s not a nice thing to say. It’s most often applied to drivers who we think are driving too slow.

Unrelatedly, pokey shows up in the term hokey-pokey. This most commonly refers to a type of dance, but it can also mean “trickery,” and in fact it is a variation of the term hocus-pocus.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to pokey?

  • poky (alternate spelling)
  • pokeys (plural)
  • pokies (alternate plural)
  • pokily (adverb)
  • pokiness (noun)
  • pokier (comparative adjective)
  • pokiest (superlative adjective)

What are some synonyms for pokey?

What are some words that share a root or word element with pokey

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

How is pokey used in real life?

In all of its senses, pokey is used informally, often to be humorous.



Try using pokey!

Does the following sentence contain an appropriate use of the word pokey

The judge is expected to announce a verdict today in the triple homicide trial, and the defendant faces life in the pokey.