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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about hoodlum

Listen to Our Podcast about hoodlum

Statistics for hoodlum

Last Updated

11 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hoodlum

The first known use of hoodlum was in 1866

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to make a temporary encampment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!