Trend Watch


When a Russian court sentenced the punk band Pussy Riot to ...


Lookups spiked on August 17, 2012


The Russian punk band Pussy Riot was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism, stemming from their surprise performance of a protest song against Russian president Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

Hooliganism, which means "rowdy, violent, or destructive behavior," isn't a charge that exists in the United States. In Russia, however, hooliganism refers to "acts of hatred or degradation of any given social or national or religious group," according to the judge who tried the case.

The verdict provoked an uproar against what many international observers saw as the suppression of free speech.

Hooligan, the word's root, may owe its existence to an Irish hoodlum of the late 1800s. In his 1899 book "The Hooligan Nights," author Clarence Rook tied the word hooligan to one Patrick Hooligan, a man who "walked to and fro among his fellow-men, robbing them and occasionally bashing them." Hooligan's name was given to various gangs of thugs, and hooligan became a general term for a hoodlum or ruffian.

Photo credit: An image from the viral video of Pussy Riot's performance in the Moscow cathedral.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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