One post often leads to another. When I wrote about the word steampunk, I learned things about the word punk that I hadn’t known before.
Three meanings I’ve always attached to the word punk are:
1. punk (noun): a smart-alecky, no-account adolescent boy.
Leo [Gorcey] was the filmic prototype of the young punk.
Justin Bieber is a punk, a product of social media.
2. punk (noun): a long skinny taper used to light fireworks.
Fireworks should be lit with punk or an extended butane lighting device.
Don’t leave matches and lighted punk where ladies may tread on them.
3. punk (adjective): in poor health, under the weather.
Sadie is feeling punk: I think her tooth is bothering her.
I woke up feeling punk, but now I feel better.
Here are some other uses of the noun punk:
Note: The dates refer to citations in the Oxford English Dictionary. The first is the earliest citation; the second is the most recent.
a prostitute (1575-1983)
a boy or young man kept as a passive sexual partner by an older man (1698-2001)
the young male companion of a tramp, especially one kept for sexual purposes (1907-2002)
derogatory term for a homosexual man (1935-1999)
a person of no account; a petty criminal; a hoodlum, a thug (1893-2004)
a coward or a weakling (1939-2003)
an amateur; an apprentice (1920-1989)
a performer or fan of punk rock (1976-2003)
Meanings of punk as an adjective include: contemptible, despicable; thuggish; inexperienced (1907-2001)
The OED offers the following definition of the word punk relating to the lighting of fireworks:
soft decayed or rotten wood, especially as used for tinder 1678-1994)
slang term for bread (1891-1991)
incense, especially Chinese incense (1844-2000)
A piece of a material that smolders when ignited, used to light fireworks or the like (1852-2005)
something worthless; foolish or meaningless talk; nonsense, rubbish 1869-1973)
New meanings for this old word are still developing, including a verb, “to punk.” Apparently the past participle is punk’d:
Taylor Swift gets Punk’d by Justin Bieber
Jusin Bieber gets punk’d by Ashton Kutcher.
The odd spelling is from a candid camera show called Punk’d.
Subscribe and Get a Free eBook: 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid
- The subscription is completely free, and we only send out one email per week, on Tuesdays
- Our emails are fun and educating and will help you improve your writing skills
- You can unsubscribe anytime you want and keep the e-book as a gift