Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A hoodlum or other criminal, especially one who carries a gun.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A young man kept for homosexual purposes; a catamite.
  • noun A passive partner in anal intercourse.
  • noun A gun-carrying hoodlum or other criminal.

Etymologies

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

[Alteration (influenced by gun) of earlier gonsil, guntzel, naïve youth, hobo's younger male lover, punk, from Yiddish gendzl, gosling, diminutive of gandz, goose, from Middle High German gans, from Old High German; see ghans- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Yiddish גענדזל (gendzl, "gosling").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

By misunderstanding of the 1929 Maltese Falcon quotation above (which survived in a popular 1941 film adaptation). The novel was originally serialized in a magazine, Black Mask, whose editor refused to allow vulgarities. Hammett used the word gunsel knowing that the editor would likely misunderstand it as relating to gun, and therefore allow it.

Examples

Comments

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  • 1. a young man kept as a sexual companion.

    2. a hoodlum armed with a handgun

    "Another thing," Spade repeated, glaring ar the boy. "Keep that gunsel away from me while you're making up your mind. I'll kill him."

    The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

    December 3, 2007

  • I remember reading somewhere that the word primarily, or perhaps only, had meaning no. 1. Then Dashiell Hammett slipped it into one of his stories, knowing full well what it meant, but counting on readers (and editors/censors) to misinterpret as something along the lines of no. 2.

    January 18, 2008

  • See also gunzel.

    March 29, 2016