hood·​lum ˈhüd-ləm How to pronounce hoodlum (audio) ˈhu̇d- How to pronounce hoodlum (audio)
plural hoodlums
somewhat old-fashioned : a usually violent criminal
hoodlums smashed through the glass enclosed foyer of a Royal Bank of Canada branch with a backhoe and scooped a machine right from the wall.Ron Suskind
Newspapers and broadcasters all over the country, including the New York Times, referred to this … murder as an "execution," and the hoodlums as an "execution team."Harold Evans
On October 24, 1931, Judge James H. Wilkerson sentenced America's most powerful hoodlum to eleven years in jail, fines of $50,000, and court costs of $30,000.David Burnham
somewhat old-fashioned : a young person who behaves in a rowdy or intimidating way : ruffian
… a moonlit late-summer battle between leather-jacketed hoodlums and T-shirt-clad fathers …David Leavitt
Yeah, the girl has a little hoodlum in her. She's a hard-edged street kid who can probably kick Dick Button's butt.Bryan Burwell
… the court sits just below … where Coney Island's worst hoodlums sometimes pass a summer evening "getting hectic," as they say—shooting at each other or tossing batteries and beer bottles onto the court from apartment windows fifteen stories above.Darcy Frey
hoodlumish adjective somewhat old-fashioned
hoodlumism noun somewhat old-fashioned

Did you know?

A hoodlum can be anyone from a dangerous thug to a young person who's just up to no good. The exact origins of the word are not known, but one theory is that the word derives from hudelum, an adjective that means "disorderly" in dialects of German spoken in and around the region of Swabia. A similar-looking word for a young troublemaker is hooligan, but that word is not related to hoodlum; rather, it most likely derives from the name of Patrick Hooligan, an Irish youth purported to have wreaked havoc in the streets of Southwark, England, in the late 19th century.

Examples of hoodlum in a Sentence

a couple of hoodlums held up the convenience store
Recent Examples on the Web That's a bunch of hoodlums getting drunk in a bunk bed situation. Dalton Ross, EW.com, 21 Feb. 2024 Bennett was once shot and wounded in a confrontation with a hoodlum. Jack Kresnak, Detroit Free Press, 28 Jan. 2024 Instead of the track pants and leather jackets that local hoodlums wore to school, their look was a kind of ’50s retro: plaid blazers and polka-dot ties, slacks with suspenders, pressed white shirts, long hair slicked back with too much gel. Simon Shuster, TIME, 4 Jan. 2024 How was this cutup going to convince as a creature of the night, striking fear in the heart of hoodlums? Vulture, 25 Aug. 2023 Everything seemed fine, that is until Dirty showed up at Chung King Studios wasted with a deranged sidekick, Crazy Sam, a wild hoodlum of a man who’d somehow ended up on a local TV show called Video Music Box and had made himself into a celebrity of sorts. Dante Ross, Rolling Stone, 9 Aug. 2023 Street hoodlums threw sticks at him and bombed his front porch with bricks. Frederick N. Rasmussen, Baltimore Sun, 23 July 2023 The issue is too many thugs, hoodlums and savage criminals on our street. CBS News, 16 Apr. 2023 The issue is not too many guns; the issue is too many thugs, hoodlums and savage criminals on our streets. Nbc Universal, NBC News, 16 Apr. 2023 See More

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

Word History


perhaps from German dialect (Swabia) hudelum disorderly

First Known Use

1866, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hoodlum was in 1866


Dictionary Entries Near hoodlum

Cite this Entry

“Hoodlum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hoodlum. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


hood·​lum ˈhüd-ləm How to pronounce hoodlum (audio)
: a young ruffian

More from Merriam-Webster on hoodlum

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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