hood·​lum | \ ˈhüd-ləm How to pronounce hoodlum (audio) , ˈhu̇d- How to pronounce hoodlum (audio) \

Definition of hoodlum

1 : thug especially : a violent criminal
2 : a young ruffian

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Other Words from hoodlum

hoodlumish \ ˈhüd-​lə-​mish How to pronounce hoodlumish (audio) , ˈhu̇d-​ \ adjective
hoodlumism \ ˈhüd-​lə-​ˌmi-​zəm How to pronounce hoodlumism (audio) , ˈhu̇d-​ \ noun

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

The duo visit the musty apartment of a reclusive language tutor, the elegant suite of a physicist in the employ of the U.S. government, and the shadowy ghetto lair of a brutal young hoodlum. Tom Nolan, WSJ, "Mysteries: Tales of Three Blood-Soaked Cities," 30 Nov. 2018 After killing a police officer and stealing a car, a French hoodlum (Jean-Paul Belmondo) gets together with his American lover (Jean Seberg) before his cover is blown. Sara Aridi, New York Times, "What’s on TV Tuesday: ‘Unsolved’ and ‘Marlon Wayans: Woke-ish’," 27 Feb. 2018 He's railed against Latinx stereotypes his entire career, with his entire corpus of one-man shows arising from his frustration with always being cast as a drug dealer, a gangster, a hoodlum. Joshua Rivera, GQ, "The People’s History of John Leguizamo," 28 Feb. 2018 Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but had the homeowners arrived minutes earlier or had the hoodlums opted to attack them, the outcome could have been much worse. Paul Jenkins, Anchorage Daily News, "Crime got you angry and frustrated? Keep your cool, my friends," 20 Jan. 2018 The regrettable attack on Nat (King) Cole in Birmingham by a band of hoodlums redounds to the everlasting discredit of those who foster race prejudice. AL.com, "The night Nat King Cole was beaten on a Birmingham stage," 11 Jan. 2018 On another, hoodlums ran through the crowd, whacking protesters with plastic chairs. Drew Hinshaw, WSJ, "Freedom for the World’s Most Famous Hostages Came at a Heavy Price," 24 Dec. 2017 Arthur Fonzarelli was a hoodlum with a heart of gold on a 1949 Triumph Trophy TR5 Scrambler Custom. Jeff Macgregor, Smithsonian, "Why ‘Happy Days’ — and the Fonz — Never Truly ‘Jumped the Shark’," 1 Oct. 2017 He had been ignored by organized crime investigators in Connecticut as a knock-around hoodlum, undeserving of a spot on law enforcement's priority list. Edmund H. Mahony, courant.com, "Gangster Gentile, Suspected Of Having Information On Gardner Art, Appears For Gun Sentencing," 5 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hoodlum.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hoodlum

1866, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for hoodlum

perhaps from German dialect (Swabia) hudelum disorderly

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Time Traveler for hoodlum

The first known use of hoodlum was in 1866

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More Definitions for hoodlum



English Language Learners Definition of hoodlum

: a tough and violent criminal


hood·​lum | \ ˈhüd-ləm How to pronounce hoodlum (audio) , ˈhu̇d-\

Kids Definition of hoodlum

: a tough and violent criminal : thug

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More from Merriam-Webster on hoodlum

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hoodlum

Spanish Central: Translation of hoodlum

Nglish: Translation of hoodlum for Spanish Speakers

Comments on hoodlum

What made you want to look up hoodlum? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that collects or salvages junk

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