[hood-luh m, hoo d-] /ˈhud ləm, ˈhʊd-/

a thug or gangster.
a young street ruffian, especially one belonging to a gang.
a petty gangster or ruffian
a lawless youth

popularized 1871, American English, (identified throughout the 1870s as “a California word”) “young street rowdy, loafer,” especially one involved in violence against Chinese immigrants, “young criminal, gangster;” it appears to have been in use locally from a slightly earlier date and may have begun as a specific name of a gang:

The police have recently been investigating the proceedings of a gang of thieving boys who denominate themselves and are known to the world as the Hoodlum Gang. [San Francisco “Golden Era” newspaper, Feb. 16, 1868, p.4]

Of unknown origin, though newspapers of the day printed myriad fanciful stories concocted to account for it. A guess perhaps better than average is that it is from German dialectal (Bavarian) Huddellump “ragamuffin” [Barnhart].

What the derivation of the word “hoodlum” is we could never satisfactorily ascertain, though several derivations have been proposed; and it would appear that the word has not been very many years in use. But, however obscure the word may be, there is nothing mysterious about the thing; …. [Walter M. Fisher, “The Californians,” London, 1876]


A petty criminal; a street tough

[1868+; origin unknown, although many suggestions have been made; the term appears to have originated in San Francisco]


Read Also:

  • Hoodman-blind

    [hoo d-muh n-blahynd] /ˈhʊd mənˈblaɪnd/ noun, Archaic. 1. . noun 1. (Brit, archaic) blind man’s buff

  • Hood-molding

    noun 1. a molding or dripstone over a door or window.

  • Hood mould

    noun 1. another name for dripstone (sense 2)

  • Hoodoo

    [hoo-doo] /ˈhu du/ noun, plural hoodoos. 1. . 2. bad luck. 3. a person or thing that brings bad luck. 4. Geology. a pillar of rock, usually of fantastic shape, left by erosion. verb (used with object), hoodooed, hoodooing. 5. to bring or cause bad luck to. /ˈhuːduː/ noun (pl) -doos 1. a variant of […]

Disclaimer: Hoodlum definition / meaning should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. All content on this website is for informational purposes only.