The origin of palooka is unknown, though various theories have been put forth. (Some sources credit the baseball player and sportswriter Jack Conway with the coinage, for example.) Palooka first appeared in print in 1920 and may have been popularized by a comic strip titled "Joe Palooka" (by Ham Fisher), which debuted in newspapers a decade later. The probable connection between Fisher's comic and palooka only adds to the mystery surrounding this term, however. Joe Palooka was a boxer who was neither incompetent nor clumsy and oafish, and yet the word palooka came to have those negative meanings. In addition, palooka has been used as a general synonym for rookie and also as a term describing horses with very little chance of winning.
Examples of palooka in a Sentence
I wish he wouldn't bring over here that bunch of palookas he calls his friends.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'palooka.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.