any prepared substance, usually in stick form, that will smolder and can be used to light fireworks, fuses, etc.
dry, decayed wood that can be used as tinder.
a spongy substance derived from fungi; amadou; touchwood.

Origin of punk

An Americanism dating back to 1680–90; origin uncertain




  1. something or someone worthless or unimportant.
  2. a young ruffian; hoodlum.
  3. an inexperienced youth.
  4. a young male partner of a homosexual.
  5. an apprentice, especially in the building trades.
  6. Prison Slang.a boy.
a style or movement characterized by the adoption of aggressively unconventional and often bizarre or shocking clothing, hairstyles, makeup, etc., and the defiance of social norms of behavior, usually associated with punk rock musicians and fans.
a punker.
Archaic. a prostitute.


Informal. poor in quality or condition.
of, relating to, or characteristic of punk rock: a punk band.
pertaining to, characteristic of, or adopting punk styles: punk youths; punk hairstyles in various colors.

Origin of punk

First recorded in 1590–1600; of obscure origin; the sense development is apparently “prostitute” > “catamite” > “hoodlum”; the adj. “poor in quality” (1896) is unclearly derived and perhaps a distinct word
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for punk

Contemporary Examples of punk

Historical Examples of punk

  • But you certainly were all to the punk in your judgment about that game.

  • Of accursed data, it seems to me that punk is pretty damnable.

  • They were all sizes, but most of them were large, and you need not “punk” them to see if they were ripe.

  • And then the truth was driven in that my new rags were punk.

    Rippling Rhymes

    Walt Mason

  • I 'clare I dunno, Mas' Sam, 'thout you got some flints an' punk in your pockets.

    The Big Brother

    George Cary Eggleston

British Dictionary definitions for punk




  1. a youth movement of the late 1970s, characterized by anti-Establishment slogans and outrageous clothes and hairstyles
  2. an adherent of punk
  3. short for punk rock
  4. (as modifier)a punk record
an inferior, rotten, or worthless person or thing
worthless articles collectively
a petty criminal or hoodlum
obsolete a young male homosexual; catamite
obsolete a prostitute


inferior, rotten, or worthless
Derived Formspunkish, adjective

Word Origin for punk

C16: via Polari from Spanish pu (n) ta prostitute, pu (n) to male prostitute




dried decayed wood that smoulders when ignited: used as tinder
any of various other substances that smoulder when ignited, esp one used to light fireworks

Word Origin for punk

C18: of uncertain origin
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 punk

"inferior, bad," 1896, also as a noun, "something worthless," earlier "rotten wood used as tinder" (1680s), "A word in common use in New England, as well as in the other Northern States and Canada" [Bartlett]; perhaps from Delaware (Algonquian) ponk, literally "dust, powder, ashes;" but Gaelic spong "tinder" also has been suggested (cf. spunk "touchwood, tinder," 1580s).


"worthless person" (especially a young hoodlum), 1917, probably from punk kid "criminal's apprentice," underworld slang first attested 1904 (with overtones of "catamite"). Ultimately from punk (n.1) or else from punk "prostitute, harlot, strumpet," first recorded 1590s, of unknown origin.

For sense shift from "harlot" to "homosexual," cf. gay. By 1923 used generally for "young boy, inexperienced person" (originally in show business, e.g. punk day, circus slang from 1930, "day when children are admitted free"). The verb meaning "to back out of" is from 1920.

The "young criminal" sense is no doubt the inspiration in punk rock first attested 1971 (in a Dave Marsh article in "Creem," referring to Rudi "Question Mark" Martinez); popularized 1976.

If you looked different, people tried to intimidate you all the time. It was the same kind of crap you had to put up with as a hippie, when people started growing long hair. Only now it was the guys with the long hair yelling at you. You think they would have learned something. I had this extreme parrot red hair and I got hassled so much I carried a sign that said "FUCK YOU ASSHOLE." I got so tired of yelling it, I would just hold up the sign. [Bobby Startup, Philadelphia punk DJ, "Philadelphia Weekly," Oct. 10, 2001]

"Chinese incense," 1870, from punk (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

punk in Culture


A type of rock 'n' roll with loud, energetic music and often harsh lyrics criticizing traditional society and culture. It was named after the punks, an anarchistic youth movement that surfaced in Great Britain in the 1970s.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.