Hoodlum
   , HOOD
   A 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. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hoodlum — may refer to:* Hoodlum (film), a 1997 film starring Laurence Fishburne *Hoodlum (1951 film), a heist film which has fallen into the [http://www.archive.org/details/The Hoodlum public domain] . [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043655/ More info] at… …   Wikipedia

  • hoodlum — popularized 1871, Amer.Eng., (identified throughout the 1870s as a California word ) young street rowdy, loafer, especially one involved in violence against Chinese immigrants, young criminal, gangster; it appears to have been in use locally from …   Etymology dictionary

  • Hoodlum — Hood lum, n. A young rowdy; a rough, lawless fellow; colloquially, called also {hood}. [Colloq. U.S.] [1913 Webster] Just tell your hoodlum friends outside You ain t got time to take no ride. Yakety Yak (Song) [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • hoodlum — I noun agitator, bandit, blackguard, brigand, burglar, convict, criminal, embezzler, evildoer, felon, firebrand, gunman, holdup man, knave, larcener, larcenist, lawbreaker, malefactor, malevolent, malfeasant, malfeasor, miscreant, mobster,… …   Law dictionary

  • hoodlum — ► NOUN ▪ a hooligan or gangster. ORIGIN of unknown origin …   English terms dictionary

  • hoodlum — ☆ hoodlum [hood′ləm, ho͞od′ləm ] n. [prob. < Ger dial. (esp. Swiss) hudilump, wretch, miserable fellow < MHG hudel, rag, wretch + lump, rag, tatter, wretch] 1. a wild, lawless person, often a member of a gang of criminals 2. a tough looking …   English World dictionary

  • Hoodlum — Les Seigneurs de Harlem Données clés Titre original Hoodlum Réalisation Bill Duke Scénario Chris Brancato Acteurs principaux Laurence Fishburne Tim Roth Vanessa Williams Andy Garcia …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hoodlum — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Harlem, N.Y.C. – Der Preis der Macht Originaltitel: Hoodlum Produktionsland: Vereinigte Staaten Erscheinungsjahr: 1997 Länge: 125 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • hoodlum — UK [ˈhuːdləm] / US [ˈhudləm] noun [countable] Word forms hoodlum : singular hoodlum plural hoodlums 1) a young person who shows no respect for the law 2) a criminal, especially a violent one …   English dictionary

  • hoodlum — [[t]hu͟ːdləm[/t]] hoodlums N COUNT A hoodlum is a violent criminal, especially one who is a member of a group. [INFORMAL] …   English dictionary

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