I knew the etymology of this word was disputed (“Hooley’s gang”? the Irish name Hooligan? Houlihan?), but I hadn’t realized how suddenly it sprang on the scene. The OED says “The word first appears in print in daily newspaper police-court reports in the summer of 1898,” and the first few citations are all from that year (the first two being from the Daily News: 26 July 5/1 It is no wonder.. that Hooligan gangs are bred in these vile, miasmatic byways; 8 Aug. 9/3 The constable said the prisoner belonged to a gang of young roughs, calling themselves ‘Hooligans’). Furthermore, the borrowing khuligan first appeared in Russian that very year, “introduced… in 1898 by I. V. Shklovskii in one of the monthly columns about life in England that he wrote for Russkoe bogatstvo (Russian Wealth) under the pen name Dioneo”; I take this information from Chapter 1 of Joan Neuberger’s Hooliganism: Crime, Culture, and Power in St. Petersburg, 1900-1914, where a footnote adds the exact reference:“Iz Anglii,” Russkoe bogatstvo 9 (September 1898): 128ff. By 1900-01 khuligan was widely used to describe the gangs of young toughs who were frightening respectable citizens all over Russia, and it has never fallen out of favor since.


  1. There’s a useful verb form as well: ‘Tovarisch provodnitsa! Zdes’ khuligan khuliganet!’ (Conductress! Here’s someone behaving like a hooligan!)

  2. The term “confidence man” is first attested in NYC and New Orleans a year or two before the appearance of Melville’s great and underrated novel.
    “Con man” was first attested here in Portland OR in a defunct publication called the Mercury.
    My source is the old-edetion OED I got 20+ years ago. Perhaps there is new info.

  3. The first entry in the latest edition is:
    1849 New Orleans Picayune 21 June 1/4 ‘Well, then,’ continues the ‘confidence man’, ‘just lend me your watch till to-morrow.’
    “Con man” is forty years later:
    1889 Portland (Oregon) Mercury 29 June 1/7 It does not take an unsophisticated countryman to get swindled by the ‘con man’.

  4. The word “hooligan” was often used by the communists as a slur word for anyone who opposed their regimes like the Hungarian revolutianaries of 1956 or the later Polish Solidarity demonstrators. The word is very popular in Romanian and one Romanian dictionary I saw translates the English words “hoodlum” and “teddy-boy” as huligan (plural huligani; def. article huliganii). Even in English as of late, there have been expressions in the press like “soccer hooligans” and “anti-Semitic hooligans.” Yet, because of its abuse for decades by the communists, it still often causes raised eyebrows whenever someone uses it in English.

  5. Michael Farris says

    It’s traditionally been popular in Polish too (usually spelled chuligan, though huligan can be found as well). In recent years it seems a little less common and more associated with soccer fans than with the traditional suspects.

  6. The Finnish writer Arvid Järnefelt wrote a book titled _Huligaani ym. kertoelmia_, published in 1926. That means “The Hooligan and Other Stories” (with ‘kertoelmia’ archaic). The word is still used in the same form, and it is quite possible that it was used before that too. Also, I found a Finnish use by googling that translates as follows: “My hooligan dog”; no evidence of comparatives though (*huligaanimpi). There is also the spelling “hulikaani” (Finnish doesn’t have voicing distinctions except imported ones) which is v. colloquial or just an error. Conclusion: seems like an established word, though somewhat rare. There are uses besides ‘football hooligans’.

  7. LH,
    can I add some juice to this dry subject? Alternative usage (1934)
    Ilf & Petrov, Bone leg
    …- Мы вопросами любви не занимаемся, гражданин. Мы регистрируем браки.
    – Но какое вам дело до того, кто мне нравится? Вы что же,
    распределитель семейного счастья здесь устроили? Регулируете движения души?
    – Потише, гражданин, насчет регулирования движения!
    – Вы растаптываете цветы любви! – завизжал доктор.
    – А вы не хулиганьте здесь!
    – А я вам говорю, что вы растаптываете!
    – А вы не нарушайте порядка.

  8. Okay, but I don’t see how it can be a dry subject when the word can even be related to things in history like the Hungarian Revolution, the Polish Solidarity Movement and the soccer riots in Brussels in 1985.

  9. All in perception: some consider same steak “well-done” and some dry as shoe sole..

  10. Graham Asher says

    There is also an affectionate form. Our Russian nanny, Svetlana, used to call our daughter ‘huliganka’, with kindly intent. Roughly ‘you little rogue’, I think.

  11. J. Cassian says

    Check out this article on the Golaniad about the protests of 1990 in Bucharest. “President Ion Iliescu called the protesters “golani” (meaning hooligans, scamps — which later gave the name of the protest) or fascists.The ending “-ad” (“-ada” in Romanian) was used ironically, since many of Ceauşescu’s Communist manifestations had endings like this (in order to compare them with an epic, like the Iliad).”
    The protesters adopted the term “golani” for themselves, composing the Imnul Golanilor (“Hymn of the Golans”), whose chorus runs:
    Mai bine haimana, decat tradator
    Mai bine huligan, decat dictator
    Mai bine golan, decat activist
    Mai bine mort, decat comunist.
    Better a tramp than a traitor,
    Better a hooligan than a dictator,
    Better a “golan” than an activist,
    Better dead than communist.

  12. Let’s see if I can get the diacritics to appear:
    Mai bine haimana, decît trădător
    Mai bine golan, decât dictator
    Mai bine huligan, decât activist
    Mai bine mort decât comunist

    I assume golan is from gol ‘naked’; does anybody know?

  13. Enmglezul says

    Golan means troublemaker …one who is constantly breaking social rules of any kind.

  14. The term of ” golan ” has nothing to do with gol – meaning naked – but it simply defines what you call punk. It was the name given by the president of Romania in 1990 to the University students that went out in the streets to ask for free elctions.The ” golaniada” phenomenon was stopped by the miners called by Iliescum who killed hundreds of persons in 13-14 June 1990. For any information regarding romanian words, pleas contact me.

  15. blow a hoolie

    blow a hoolie v. phr. (of weather) to storm; to forcefully gust, blow, and rain. Editorial Note: The stand-alone hoolie ‘a severe storm’ is rare outside of the blow a hoolie construction. It is sometimes spelled hooley. Etymological Note: Perhaps connected to hooley defined by Jonathon Green’s Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang as “a rip-roaring party” and marked as originally Irish, though the sense has a history in the US as well. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)


    It’s blowing a hooley out here – our guide to English weather vocabulary


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