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[hoo-li-guh n] /ˈhu lɪ gən/
a ruffian or hoodlum.
of or like hooligans.
1895-1900; perhaps after the Irish surname Hooligan, but corroborating evidence is lacking
Related forms
hooliganism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for hooligans
  • It exposes the techies behind word-processing programs as ill-educated geek hooligans.
  • If not for the filming these hooligans, the police, would have gotten away with unprovoked life threatening behavior.
  • The four other students and the professor were apparently mystified at the motives of these hooligans.
  • They were attacked either by the police or by groups of hooligans who were under clear police protection.
  • His problem is with his own countrymen, and fine specimens of drug-dealing hooligans they are.
  • It all ends with the hooligans caught in a crossfire between gangsters and delivery boys.
  • Heroes and princesses for daytime events, hooligans and witches for spooky nighttime activities.
  • Few enjoy the thought that their country gestates drunks and hooligans or is imperilled by fanatics.
  • They have dealt with race riots, football hooligans social disturbances for years.
  • These people seem to me to be a bunch of lazy hooligans.
British Dictionary definitions for hooligans


(slang) a rough lawless young person
Derived Forms
hooliganism, noun
Word Origin
C19: perhaps variant of Houlihan, Irish surname
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hooligans



1890s, of unknown origin, first found in British newspaper police-court reports in the summer of 1898, almost certainly from the variant form of the Irish surname Houlihan, which figured as a characteristic comic Irish name in music hall songs and newspapers of the 1880s and '90s.

As an "inventor" and adapter to general purposes of the tools used by navvies and hodmen, "Hooligan" is an Irish character who occupies week by week the front of a comic literary journal called Nuggets, one of the series of papers published by Mr. James Henderson at Red Lion House. Previous to publication in London, "Hooligan" appears, I believe, in New York in a comic weekly, and in London he is set off against "Schneider," a German, whose contrainventions and adaptations appear in the Garland (a very similar paper to Nuggets), which also comes from Mr. Henderson's office. "Hooligan" and "Schneider" have been running, I should think, for four or five years. ["Notes and Queries," Oct. 15, 1898]
Internationalized 20c. in communist rhetoric as Russian khuligan, opprobrium for "scofflaws, political dissenters, etc."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for hooligans


  1. ruffian; street tough; goon, hoodlum: Beat me up with your hooligans (1898+)
  2. gun
  3. The Wild West tent of a circus or show (1940s+ Circus)

[origin unknown; perhaps fr a rowdy Irish family named Hooligan of Southwark, London, England; perhaps fr Irish Uillega´n, a nickname for William, with confusion by Americans over vocative ''Oh, Willie,'' spread to all Irishmen; circus sense perhaps related to Western hoolian or hooley-ann or hoolihan, ''throw a steer by leaping on its horns, bulldog''; all senses perhaps related to Irish hooley, ''noisy party, carousal'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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