- , HOODA hoodlum is a young street ruffian, especially one belonging to a gang. He—and hoodlums are only he—is a thug, a gangster, completely reprehensible. The word is a varied eponymous form of the real name of the leader of a gang of toughs who plagued California during the last part of the nineteenth century, harassing Chinese laborers especially. But there are other theories of the origin of Hoodlum. John Bartlett reports, without attestation, that in 1871 a San Francisco newspaper reporter was assigned to cover gang leader Muldoon's felonious activities, an assignment that undoubtedly put the reporter's safety in jeopardy. The ingenious reporter dreamed up an unusual means for guarding against reprisal from Muldoon and his gang—he spelled Muldoon's name backwards. He reported the criminality of a person named "Noodlum." The newspaper's compositor read the initial "N" as an "H." And so an illegitimate word from an illegitimate parent was born. And the word hoodlum thrived, became a a part of the English language, and found a resting place in every dictionary. Today small-time and big-time crooks as well are known as hoodlums or, shortened, hoods.H. L. Mencken reported that hoodlum, first recorded in the San Francisco area about 1870, may have come from a Bavarian dialect term, hodalump, of precisely the same meaning—a small-time gangster. At that time the Germans constituted a large part of the comunity, and many of them were Bavarians.The word hoodwink has unrelated origins—criminal activity in the sixteenth century gave birth to this word. Thieves practiced a form of early-bird mugging. They would pull the hood, or cowl, down over the eyes of the intended victim, thus blinding him and making him an easy prey to be robbed. The poor devil who was targeted was said to be hoodwinked.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.