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 There have been some teething problems: Vague gossip about injuries, social media gripes from pedestrians about rude young scooter hoodlums, complaints about scofflaws not obeying the rules of the road. al, "So, what’s it like to ride a Gotcha scooter in Mobile?," 10 Jan. 2020 There are no colorful caricatures here, no hoodlum romanticism. Rick Kogan, chicagotribune.com, "Brave book ‘Chicagohoodz’ offers an illustrated history, of sorts, of Chicago street gangs," 26 Aug. 2019 Get our daily newsletter Crime was once solid ground for Tories, who mocked liberal opponents for their soft treatment of hoodlums. The Economist, "Tories promise more police—having earlier cut their number," 7 Nov. 2019 He's jumped by a bunch of teen hoodlums who steal his sign and give him a beating in an alley. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Joker': Film Review | Venice 2019," 31 Aug. 2019 But once arrested, they were portrayed by the press as a gang of hoodlums. San Diego Union-Tribune, "UCSD professor Anthony Davis’ opera ‘The Central Park Five’ goes where Netflix doesn’t dare," 17 June 2019 Participants will ride on a bus to view the exteriors of 14 Oak Park and River Forest houses once owned by major hoodlums. Myrna Petlicki, chicagotribune.com, "Mob historian leads There Goes the Neighborhood bus tour through Oak Park, River Forest," 26 June 2018 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

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of hoodlum was in 1866

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Statistics for hoodlum

Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hoodlum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hoodlumisms. Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for hoodlum


How to pronounce hoodlum (audio) How to pronounce hoodlum (audio)

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

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