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

Definition of hoodlum

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

Other Words from hoodlum

hoodlumish \ ˈhüd-​lə-​mish How to pronounce hoodlum (audio) , ˈhu̇d-​ \ adjective
hoodlumism \ ˈhüd-​lə-​ˌmi-​zəm How to pronounce hoodlum (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 boys’ boredom and anxiety is offset by a visit from their Uncle Louie, a low-level hoodlum who is on the run after stealing from a mobster named Hollywood Harry. courant.com, 31 Mar. 2022 Dutt plays genial hoodlum Munna Bhai, who inadvertently ends up being a do-gooder and Arshad Warsi plays his loyal sidekick Circuit. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 6 Feb. 2022 There was plenty to loathe about certain members of the band of criminals who surrounded our hoodlum-in-chief. John R. Macarthur, Harper’s Magazine , 7 Dec. 2021 And, of course, there’s Mark Wahlberg, an ace actor who parlayed his Calvin-Klein-hoodlum-of-rap image into true movie stardom. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 28 Nov. 2021 In one scene the country-music legend, who portrayed a hoodlum named Johnny Cabot, grabbed Ron and held him hostage. Patrick J. Kiger, Los Angeles Times, 12 Oct. 2021 For years, Gentile was known to but mostly ignored by FBI and state police mob investigators, who wrote him off as a nickel and dime hoodlum. Edmund H. Mahony, courant.com, 22 Sep. 2021 Hernández de Cruceño, however, was new in town, and had the look of a malandro, or hoodlum. Seth Harp, Harper's Magazine, 27 Apr. 2020 Hernández de Cruceño, however, was new in town, and had the look of a malandro, or hoodlum. Seth Harp, Harper's Magazine, 27 Apr. 2020 See More

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.

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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The first known use of hoodlum was in 1866

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Last Updated

18 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Hoodlum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hoodlum. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for hoodlum


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

Kids Definition of hoodlum

: a tough and violent criminal : thug

More from Merriam-Webster on hoodlum

Nglish: Translation of hoodlum for Spanish Speakers


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