Student Dictionary

One entry found for goon.
Main Entry: goon
Pronunciation: primarystressgün
Function: noun
Etymology: probably a shortened form of a dialect word gooney "simpleton"
1 : a stupid person
2 : a person hired to terrorize or beat up or kill opponents : THUG
Word History Some comic strips have had a lasting effect on culture. One such strip, first drawn in the 1920s by Elzie Segar and now known as "Popeye," apparently was responsible for adding the word goon to the every-day language. One of the characters Segar created for the comic strip looked a bit like an overgrown pear with legs. This creature, which was not really human, had a big nose, a bald head, and hairy arms and legs. It was called "Alice the goon." Alice was basically good-hearted but not very smart. As a result of the popularity of the comic strip and of Alice, people began to use the word goon in the meaning "a stupid person" or "a person with not much common sense." Later, when thugs and criminals were hired to terrorize workers during labor troubles in the 1930s, these thugs, whose actions weren't very "human," were also called goons. But even though Alice may have been responsible for making the word goon popular, the word may not have started with the comic strip. The word can be traced back to an English dialect word gooney, first used in the 16th century, meaning "a person lacking in common sense, simpleton."

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