Definitions

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

  • n. An informal performance by folk singers, typically with participation by the audience.
  • n. Informal An unidentified or unidentifiable gadget.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A Placeholder word for a nonspecific or forgotten thing (see thingamajig, whatchamacallit)
  • n. An informal, festive performance by folk singers, often including audience participation with the use of acoustic instruments.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An informal social gathering or concert featuring mostly folk songs, sometimes dancing, and where the audience often participates in the singing.
  • n. Same as whatchamacallit; a thingumbob.

Etymologies

Origin unknown.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Unknown; potentially Scottish. Use is tied to the Appalachian culture in the US. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • She was often the only Almanac with a steady job, which -- along with regular "hootenanny" song parties -- helped pay the rent.

    Peter Dreier: Remembering Bess Lomax Hawes

  • Whenever AFG comes home and hints that we need to put on some kind of hootenanny -- oh, I'm sorry, we need to put on some kind of evening soiree-- my first thought is "What would Melody do?"

    What Would Melody Do? - SpouseBUZZ

  • The terror turns up in all kinds of inconvenient places - a "hootenanny," involving folk singing and poor judgment; the backyard of a neglectful mother who is hanging laundry; and an over-packed reception hall where serious partiers in ridiculous outfits are dancing wildly in broad daylight.

    Colorado Springs Independent

  • With other band members singing some of Cuomo's leads, a massive onstage "hootenanny" that had fans playing along to acoustic renditions of tracks like "Island in the Sun," and even the surreal sight of Cuomo kicking over a record player (set up pre-encore) before blasting into a cover of Nirvana's "Sliver," the band has never been so refreshing.

    Spin Magazine Online -

  • Football's biggest game may have glamorous trappings, what with the Madonna hootenanny, the khakis-casual corporate breakfast buffets and the titillating chance of a Joe Theismann sighting, but it can be a bleak curse on the team living in the host city.

    No Fans Were Left Out in the Cold

  • And the whole rite was set to a hootenanny guitar beat.

    Kate Clinton: Et Cum Spirit Two Two Oh

  • TV clips from hifi, party record and hootenanny days from the TV shows Playboy's Penthouse and Playboy After Dark feature folk singers Pete Seeger and Joan Baez and rare performances.

    Martha Rosenberg: Will Hugh Hefner Be Remembered as a Visionary or a Flesh Peddler?

  • Sorry, "both sides" fetishists, but one viewing of her show proves that there's no comparison between Rachel Maddow's fact-based analysis and Sean Hannity's Republican talking point hootenanny.

    Bob Cesca: Killing the False Equivalency "Both Sides" Meme

  • The milieu of the coffeehouse "Espresso Yourself" reminded me of every open-mic hootenanny joint I'd ever played, where most of the people I was singing for were other singers waiting to sing for me (if I stuck around long enough after my set to listen).

    Joseph Smigelski: Film Review: Punching the Clown

  • It takes me almost the whole lunch period to explain to Verbena what a hootenanny is and why my mom is all fired up about having one.

    Ten Miles Past Normal

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Another example to add: "On the night of their departure from Kvitoya, a dozen or so off-duty deckies gathered in the rec room for a kind of eschatological hootenanny, and soon the entire superstructure was resounding with "Rock of Ages," "Kum-Ba-Yah," "Go Down, Moses," "Amazing Grace," A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."" From pp. 355-356 of Morrow, James (1994). Towing Jehovah. New York: Harcourt.

    June 23, 2012

  • "Well, a gathering is brie, mellow song stylings; shindig, dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage; and hootenanny, well, it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny." - Oz, BtVS

    November 6, 2010

  • That makes sense. I guess I was equating it more with "party animal" or just "fun guy." :-P

    January 23, 2008

  • I suspect "that guy is a hoot" comes from someone "hooting with laughter" and means that guy is funny or that guy makes me laugh.

    hoot: verb

    (of people) to make a loud noise of laughter or disapproval
    Example: They hooted with laughter.

    January 23, 2008

  • Wikipedia does say the word was used like thingamajig in the early 20th c. So could be.

    And thanks for calling attention to it; I'm adding it to my Shindigs list.

    January 23, 2008

  • I wonder if this is the root behind the phrase "that guy is a hoot!"?

    January 23, 2008

  • a gathering at which folksingers entertain often with the audience joining in, popular in the late 50s and early 60s, also referred to simply as a "hoot"
    Are you going to the hoot tonight?

    January 22, 2008