Word Origin & History
1921, "stupid person," from gony "simpleton" (c.1580), of unknown origin, but applied by sailors to the albatross and similar big, clumsy birds (1839); sense of "hired thug" first recorded 1938 (in ref. to union "beef squads" used to cow strikers in the Pacific northwest), probably from Alice the Goon,
slow-witted and muscular (but gentle-natured) character in "Thimble Theater" comic strip (starring Popeye) by E.C. Segar (1894-1938). She also was the inspiration for British comedian Spike Milligan's "The Goon Show." What are now "juvenile delinquents" were in the 1940s sometimes called goonlets.