• Punk


    • Rhymes: -ʌŋk

    Origin 1

    Of uncertain origin. Possibly from the application of the sense punk ("rotten wood dust used as tinder") (see below) to anything worthless (that sense being attested since 1869), and then to any undesirable person (since 1908). Alternatively, perhaps from Spanish punto ("prostitute").


    Full definition of punk



    (countable and uncountable; plural punks)
    1. (obsolete, countable) A prostitute; courtezan.
      • Shakespeare Measure, V.i.My lord, she may be a punk; for many of them are neither maid, widow, nor wife.
      • 1663: Samuel Butler (poet), .And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
        For Dame Religion, as for punk.
    2. (countable, uncommon) The bottom in a male-male sexual relationship, especially in prison. since the 19th centuryBecause he was so weak, Vinny soon became Tony's punk.
      • 1946, Mezz Mezzrow & Bernard Wolfe, Really the Blues, Payback Press 1999, p. 15:A punk, if you want it in plain English, is a boy with smooth skin who takes the place of a woman in a jailbird's love life.
    3. (countable) A juvenile delinquent; a young petty criminal or trouble-maker; a hoodlum.
    4. (countable) Any worthless person.
      • 1971, Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, , I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking, "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, I've forgotten myself in all this excitement. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky?
        Well, do ya, punk?
    5. (uncountable) A social and musical movement rooted in rebelling against the established order.
    6. (uncountable) The music of the punk movement, known for short songs with electric guitars, strong drums, and a direct, unproduced approach.
    7. (countable, sometimes as informal plural punx) A person who belongs to that movement and/or listens to that music, a punk rocker.

    Usage notes

    The most common use of the term is in the term punk rock (for a certain social and musical movement). In the UK, this is the only common usage.



    1. Of, from, or resembling the punk subculture.''You look very punk with your t-shirt, piercing and chains.


    1. To pimp.Tony punked-out Vinny when he was low on smokes.
    2. To forcibly perform anal sex upon an unwilling partner.Ricky punked his new cell-mates.
    3. To prank.I got expelled when I punked the principal.
    4. (especially with "out") To give up or concede; to act like a wimp.Jimmy was going to help me with the prank, but he punked (out) at the last minute.

    Usage notes

    The relatively tame 21st century usage of punk to mean "prank" was popularized by the American television show Punk'd. Until as recently as the late 20th century, punk still connoted rape or submitting to anal rape (punk-out). The second use of the term punk-out is now comparable to acting like a pussy and mildly implies submissive behavior in general.


    • see

    Origin 2

    Perhaps a reduction of spunk ("tinder"); compare funk ("rotten wood"). Alternatively, perhaps from Unami punkw ("dust")

    Lenape Talking Dictionary, punkw


    Robert K. Barnhart (editor), The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology (H. W. Wilson, 1988), page 864: "Probably borrowed from Algonquian (Delaware) ponk, literally, living ashes."



    (countable and uncountable; plural punks)
    1. (uncountable) Any material used as tinder for lighting fires, such as agaric, dried wood, or touchwood.http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?resource=Webster%27s&word=punk&use1913=on, especially wood altered by certain fungi.
      • 1899, H. B. Cushman, History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians, p271On one occasion a venerable old Indian man, who, in order to light his pipe, was trying to catch a spark upon a piece of punk struck from his flint and steel; ...
      • 1922, Harry Ignatius Marshall, The Karen People of Burma, p61The oil is mixed with bits of dry wood or punk and moulded into sticks about a cubit long and an inch in diameter by putting it into joints of small bamboo.
      • 2001, William W. Johnstone, War of the Mountain Man, p116He made him a little smoldering pocket of punk to light the fuses and waited.
    2. (countable) A utensil for lighting wicks or fuses (such as those of fireworks) resembling stick incense.
      • 1907, Jack London, The Road, http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14658On the end a coal of fire slowly smouldered. It would last for hours, and my cell-mate called it a "punk."
      • 1994, Ashland Price, Viking Tempest, p353Then, without another word, he rose and left the shelter, apparently in order to light the vessel's wick with a punk from the dying campfire.
      • 2004, Shawn Shiflett, Hidden Place, p221He raised the cylinder high in the air with his bare hand, used a punk to light the fuse, and KABOOM!
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