hon·​cho ˈhän-(ˌ)chō How to pronounce honcho (audio)
plural honchos

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A relic of the large U.S. presence in Japan in the years following World War II, the word honcho comes from the Japanese word hanchō meaning “leader of the squad, section, group.” We are uncertain of the exact route by which honcho found its way into American military argot in the mid-1950s, though it is known that the Japanese applied hanchō to British or Australian officers in charge of work parties in prisoner-of-war camps. By the 1960s, the word had become part of colloquial American jargon.

Examples of honcho in a Sentence

the office was all abuzz because some honchos from corporate headquarters were coming for a visit he's definitely the head honcho in that company
Recent Examples on the Web The slightest hint of congressional courage on gun control means more expensive vacations for NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre. Eric Alterman, The New Republic, 21 Aug. 2023 Mark Zuckerberg called out Elon Musk for continually avoiding their cage match in a post Sunday on the Meta honcho’s Threads. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 13 Aug. 2023 Coming on the heels of its eye-opening Secrets of Playboy, which accused the late Playboy honcho Hugh Hefner of being a rapist who was into snuff films and bestiality, A&E is now dropping Secrets of Miss America, a four-part docuseries airing weekly starting July 10. Marlow Stern, Rolling Stone, 10 July 2023 It’s earned him the faith and support of everyone from Playwrights Horizons honcho Ira Weitzman (Jonathan Marc Sherman) to no less a grizzled eminence than Stephen Sondheim (a pitch-perfect Bradley Whitford), whose influence can already be heard in some of the lyrics. Los Angeles Times, 12 Nov. 2021 Billboard honcho Paul Ackerman was so impressed that Stein was soon hired to write concert reviews for Billboard. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Apr. 2023 In a groundbreaking move for the film-TV scene in the U.S. Hispanic, Latin America and Spain, ex-NBC Universal Telemundo honcho Marcos Santana is launching Mas Ros Media, a new venture with offices in Barcelona and Miami whose productions target gaming and esports communities and their families. John Hopewell, Variety, 17 Jan. 2023 Staying in touch with this new customer is a savvy move for an Italian honcho who has two children in their 30s, Pietro and Romeo, no grandchildren yet and an increasingly unrelatable lifestyle. Rory Satran, WSJ, 3 Dec. 2022 San Francisco Giants honcho Farhan Zaidi is Norman Dale. John Shea, San Francisco Chronicle, 15 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'honcho.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Japanese hanchō squad leader, from han squad + chō head, chief

First Known Use

1945, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of honcho was in 1945

Dictionary Entries Near honcho

Cite this Entry

“Honcho.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honcho. Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

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