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(sometimes initial capital letter) a member of the Beat Generation.
a person who rejects or avoids conventional behavior, dress, etc.
Contemporary Examples

At an underground party, Joyce introduced Peggy to her friend Abe Drexler (Charlie Hofheimer), a beatnik journalist.
‘Mad Men’ Premiere: Before Season 5, Let’s Remember Season 4 Jace Lacob March 21, 2012

Guggenheim pulled the confirmed bachelor into her coven of beatnik friends.
Casa de la Torre: The Museum of Mexico’s Liberace Brandon Presser March 23, 2014

Historical Examples

He was far, far different than the laughing, beatnik jabbering, youngster he had always seemed.
Black Man’s Burden Dallas McCord Reynolds

That was the only place in town, as I understood, from the reports, outside of the beatnik place they could.
Warren Commission (5 of 26): Hearings Vol. V (of 15) The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy

a member of the Beat Generation (sense 1)
(informal) any person with long hair and shabby clothes

coined 1958 by San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen during the heyday of -nik suffixes in the wake of Sputnik. From Beat generation (1952), associated with beat (n.) in its meaning “rhythm (especially in jazz)” as well as beat (past participle adjective) “worn out, exhausted,” but originator Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) in 1958 connected it with beatitude.

The origins of the word beat are obscure, but the meaning is only too clear to most Americans. More than the feeling of weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of the mind. [“New York Times Magazine,” Oct. 2, 1952]

“Beat” is old carny slang. According to Beat Movement legend (and it is a movement with a deep inventory of legend), Ginsberg and Kerouac picked it up from a character named Herbert Huncke, a gay street hustler and drug addict from Chicago who began hanging around Times Square in 1939 (and who introduced William Burroughs to heroin, an important cultural moment). The term has nothing to do with music; it names the condition of being beaten down, poor, exhausted, at the bottom of the world. [Louis Menand, “New Yorker,” Oct. 1, 2007]


A person who is beat in the sense of alienation from society, etc

[1950s+; See beat and -nik; coined by San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen in 1958]


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