What does hardcore mean?


Hardcore means "extreme" or "intense," like a hardcore gym routine, or a fan of Justin Bieber. It is especially used to reference hardcore punk music or pornography.

Examples of hardcore


Examples of hardcore
Butt-kicking, Hardcore Females in YA Literature
Capital Area District Libraries (headline), July 2018
So apparently the baby next to me on my flight was audition to be the screamer of a hardcore band. Hope she gets the part!
@RemingtonLeith, October 2018

Where does hardcore come from?

In the early 1910s, hard core described the central element of something, like its unmovable (hard) foundation (core). By the 1920s, this extended to an unwavering devotion to a group or cause.

Hardcore pornography (which shows sex explicit acts) emerges from a 1957 obscenity trial and was used to describe sexual materials without artistic merit. Softcore pornography emerges in the 1960s for pornography that is erotic but not explicit. 

Hardcore music begins as a fast, loud, abrasive, and politicized genre of punk music in the 1970s–80s. Notable acts included Bad Brains, Black Flag, and Minor Threat. The name is often credited to Canadian rockers D.O.A’s 1981 album Hardcore ’81.

Hardcore punk lent its -core as a combining form for other aggressive or experimental genres, like metalcore and nerdcore, then just to other trends in general such as normcore or sleazecore fashion.

Who uses hardcore?

People commonly use hardcore to describe their passionate commitment to such things as a sport/sports team, hobby, fandom, person, cause, or group. 

Hardcore can also characterize someone as “tough” and “edgy,” often used ironically.

Hardcore remains used in pornography, especially online. It’s also used in the punk scene. As noted, other punk-inflected music genres feature the -core from hardcore, e.g., cuddlecore or horrorcore. Increasingly, fashion trends, as we saw with normcore, are using this -core as well.


Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.