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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

There have always been underground movements in New York, from punks to beatniks.
GHE20G0TH1K Party Initiates New Fashion Trend Misty White Sidell April 10, 2013

The Beats are hanging out there, and eventually attracting the beatniks.
Why Did Llewyn Davis’s Greenwich Village Disappear? Andrew Romano December 6, 2013

As the beatniks long ago learned, out there in America hair matters, and here we were in the land of the permanent wave.
‘The Land of the Permanent Wave’ Is Bud Shrake’s Classic Take on ‘60s Texas Edwin Shrake February 1, 2014

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]

Members of the “beat” movement in the United States in the 1950s. Beatniks frequently rejected middle-class American values, customs, and tastes in favor of radical politics and exotic jazz, art, and literature. The movement was often classified as bohemian. The poet Allen Ginsberg and the novelist Jack Kerouac are examples of beatnik authors.

Note: “Daddy-O” (a term of address); “Cool, man, cool”; and “strictly dullsville” are examples of slang expressions used by beatniks or by people trying to sound like beatniks.


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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