Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A single-masted fishing smack used off the coast of Ireland.
  • n. An old worn-out or clumsy ship.
  • n. One that hooks.
  • n. Slang A prostitute.
  • n. Slang A drink of undiluted hard liquor: a hooker of whiskey.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One who, or that which, hooks.
  • n. A small fishing boat.
  • n. Any antiquated craft.
  • n. A player who hooks the ball out of the scrum with his foot.
  • n. A crocheter.
  • n. A measurement of alcohol without definite amounts, meaning the same thing as a "slug" (of gin), an overlarge gulp. Used from the 1920s through the 1940s.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who, or that which, hooks.
  • n.
  • n. A Dutch vessel with two masts.
  • n. A fishing boat with one mast, used on the coast of Ireland.
  • n. A sailor's contemptuous term for any antiquated craft.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who or that which hooks.
  • n. [Formerly hoker.] A thief; a filcher; a shoplifter.
  • n. A two-masted Dutch vessel; also, a small fishing-smack used on the Irish coasts.
  • n. [Sometimes used in contempt for any ill-conditioned or disorderly vessel.
  • n. See Amish.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. United States general in the Union Army who was defeated at Chancellorsville by Robert E. Lee (1814-1879)
  • n. English theologian (1554-1600)
  • n. (rugby) the player in the middle of the front row of the scrum who tries to capture the ball with the foot
  • n. a prostitute who attracts customers by walking the streets
  • n. a golfer whose shots typically curve left (for right-handed golfers)

Etymologies

Dutch hoeker, from Middle Dutch hoeckboot : hoec, fishhook; see keg- in Indo-European roots + boot, boat.
Probably from the hook-like form of the arm taken in raising a drink to the mouth.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

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  • On the “urban legend” of General Hooker: The phrase "pretty Hookers" (1845) has been interpreted by Professor Norman E. Eliason (1956) Tarheel Talk to mean ‘prostitutes’. His ASSERTION, is that before the US Civil War prostitutes were commonly called “hookers”. All other references of hooker in the 1800s were to hooker-boats or to Mennonites or to thieves or persons with the family name Hooker. (Search engines and jokes are not sensitive to the difference between proper names and common nouns.)
    Try to find a single passage in which the word "hooker" refers explicitly or implicitly to whores. Consult the series "Making of America: MoA – a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction." See also the many boks by Jay Moynahan on whoring in the Old West. He has told me that he never found "hooker" as a word for prostitute. Eliason's interpretation, which is repeated as fact in slang dictionaries printed since 1956, is that the Civil War story merely reinforces an old usage that was there all along. How long and where? Not attested in Chaucer or Shakespeare, who were bawdy enough; not Down Under or in Ireland. A Galway hooker is not an Irish tart, but a boat named for fishing with hook, not net.
    Eliason considers it mere coincidence that General Joe Hooker sequesterd prostitutes in SE Washington. pm the site of the present Museum of the American Indian, in Washington SE, in 1863 a red light district. Civil War historian Shelby Foote would not have been able to find "hooker " = ‘whore’ in any 1840s dictionary since no such entry exists. The phrase “pretty Hookers” certainly refers to “hot chicks” in Eliason’s source, a letter from North Carolina student T. S. Haughton to fellow student Bryan Grimes. – Another of their fellows was Erasmus A. Roscoe Hooker. (Google “Graduates of the University of North Carolina 1798-1851”. Eliason’s own source warns his correspondent that, while dalliance with the girls he has mentioned as “pretty Hookers” would be safe sex, he should at all costs avoid prostitutes: a clap epidemic was in full bloom. Check Eliason’s primary source. The earliest unconditionally sure case of referring to prostitutes as hookers was in the 1914 booklet of Jackson and Hellyer, Vocabulary of Criminal Slang, With Some Examples of Common Usages. – Common, that is, among criminals, not citizens. A compendium of underworld slang would not include words that were common knowledge to rookies and civilians.
    By “unconditionally sure” reference I mean that the writer says flat out “hooker means prostitute”. In “conditionally sure” cases, context and inference make clear what the word means: “Ain't you got the sense to tell a good girl from a hooker? (Look Homeward, Angel. Thomas Clayton Wolfe 1929.) Otherwise we have contestable cases, i.e. where an opinion or interpretation on meanings is involved, with or without argument. Eliason’s opinion is untenable. His reviewers overlooked this gem of historical linguistics from his book (1956: 54): “I Seen Batsey Betsy above the fish Dam a tuesday Last and “He goes to see Sally above the fishdam… –Eliason: “Above the fish dam as used here is very curious, for it is evidently not an adverbial phrase answering “where?” but rather an alternate surname, common in early English but extremely rare so late as this.” Eliason takes this as “Betsy who?”, not “Betsy where?”. Remember George Burns & Gracie Allen: "Say Good night, Gracie"? That was a joke, a deliberate joke, while Eliason's surname is an unintentional joke. Netymologist Wilton and librarian Shapiro et al. have not done their homework.

    September 15, 2009

  • "hookers - Pilferers or petty thieves, who, with a stick having a hook at the end, steal goods out of shop windows, grates, etc.; also those who draw in or entice unwary persons to prick at the belt, or such like devices."
    - Francis Grose, 'The Vulgar Tongue'.

    September 6, 2008

  • Thanks, John! Another for my Out to Sea list. :-) Good article too.

    May 18, 2008

  • "At the stony pier we watch the bobbing of moored Galway hookers, traditional wooden sailing boats with single masts and glorious billowing sails. Once used to import turf from rocky Connemara, the hookers are now the star attraction of a mid-August festival called Cruinniu na mBad, or Gathering of the Boats."

    The New York Times, Does the ‘Real’ Ireland Still Exist?, by Dan Barry, May 18, 2008

    May 18, 2008