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

  • noun An often aggressive or violent young man.
  • noun An inexperienced young person.
  • noun A cowardly or weak young man.
  • noun Punk rock.
  • noun A punk rocker.
  • noun Slang A young man who is the sexual partner of an older man, especially in prison.
  • noun Archaic A prostitute.
  • intransitive verb To act in a cowardly manner. Often used with out.
  • intransitive verb To humiliate (someone). Often used with down or out.
  • intransitive verb To dupe or deceive.
  • intransitive verb To play a practical joke on.
  • noun Dry decayed wood, used as tinder.
  • noun Any of various substances that smolder when ignited, used to light fireworks.
  • noun Chinese incense.
  • adjective Of poor quality; worthless.
  • adjective Weak in spirits or health.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To strike or pound with the closed fist.
  • noun Wood decayed through the influence of a fungus or otherwise, and used like tinder; touchwood.
  • noun Tinder made from certain fungi. See amadou and fungus-tinder.
  • noun A prostitute; a courtezan.
  • noun A punch or pound with the closed fist.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Wood so decayed as to be dry, crumbly, and useful for tinder; touchwood.
  • noun A fungus (Polyporus fomentarius, etc.) sometimes dried for tinder; agaric.
  • noun An artificial tinder. See Amadou, and Spunk.
  • noun obsolescent A prostitute; a strumpet.

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

  • noun countable A juvenile delinquent, young petty criminal or trouble-maker.
  • noun countable A utensil for lighting wicks or fuses (such as those of fireworks) resembling stick incense.
  • noun obsolete, countable A prostitute; courtezan.
  • noun countable (19th century, rare) The bottom in a male-male sexual relationship; a catamite.
  • noun US, prison slang A male used for sex by larger or stronger inmates, a pussyboy
  • noun uncountable A social and musical movement rooted in rebelling against the established order.
  • noun uncountable The music of the punk movement, known for short songs with electric guitars, strong drums, and a direct, unproduced approach.
  • noun countable A person subscribing to the movement, a punk rocker.
  • noun countable A worthless person.
  • adjective Of, or resembling the punk subculture
  • verb To pimp.
  • verb To forcibly perform anal sex upon an unwilling partner.
  • verb To prank.
  • verb To give up or concede; to act like a wimp.

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

  • noun substance that smolders when ignited; used to light fuses (especially fireworks)
  • noun rock music with deliberately offensive lyrics expressing anger and social alienation; in part a reaction against progressive rock
  • noun material for starting a fire
  • noun an aggressive and violent young criminal
  • noun a teenager or young adult who is a performer (or enthusiast) of punk rock and a member of the punk youth subculture
  • adjective of very poor quality; flimsy


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

[Origin unknown.]

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

[Probably of eastern Algonquian origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Perhaps a reduction of spunk ("tinder"); compare funk ("rotten wood"). Alternatively, perhaps from Lenape punkw ("dust"). Other senses derived by extension of the term for rotten wood dust to "anything rotten, worthless, rubbish" (1869) and figuratively to "a worthless person, a young hoodlum" (first recorded in 1908).


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word punk.



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

  • The Leaves were a proto-punk garage band from Los Angeles, known mainly for their recording of "Hey Joe." See Free Association.

    February 12, 2008

  • I saw the Leaves several times and they RULED!

    February 12, 2008

  • A truly great band. Jim Pons, bassist, went on to play with Frank Zappa (and the Turtles, for which I guess I'll forgive him...)

    February 13, 2008

  • "Now I want you to notice the smell of the punk, Tommy. Something like a peculiar incense. It has a smell so completely its own. You light your punk and it just glows on the end."

    - Malcolm Lowry, October Ferry to Gabriola

    July 30, 2008

  • "Crust punk" can be seen here. (but why would you want to?)

    January 15, 2009