Among the more curious classes of slang words is that of terms ending in the letter o, the topic of this post.
Several categories exist in which informal words end in o. Among the oldest are those consisting of words to which an extraneous o has been added, such as cheerio (from cheer or cheery), which in British English is used as a greeting or a farewell, and boyo, an extension of boy, just as kiddo is derived from kid.
Sometimes, a word ending in o is simply a truncation of a word in which o is naturally the last letter of the abbreviation, such as condo, for condominium, which originally meant “joint rule or sovereignty” but in the mid-twentieth century came to refer to a privately owned apartment. (The word to which the element con-, meaning “with,” has been attached is cognate with domain.) Another example is demo, short for demonstration, in the sense of a presentation of a product or a rough version of a music recording.
Sometimes the o is attached to a truncated word after the first syllable regardless of which vowel follows in the full form of the word, as in aggro, for aggressive (generally to describe a hostile person or hostile behavior); ammo, for ammunition; combo, for combination (usually in the sense of a small ensemble of musicians, especially those who play jazz); convo, for conversation; and journo, for journalist.
Australia is fertile ground for word formation of this type (as well as other diminutive forms, such as applying -ie, as in alkie, for alcoholic, and barbie, for barbecue). Some more obscure abbreviations from Australia include arvo, for afternoon; doggo (in the expression “lie doggo,” meaning “lay low”); and muso, for musician.
One slightly truncated word in American English is rando, from random; several decades ago, the latter word was first employed as a noun to describe a peculiar person, and from there it acquired the sense of someone who is sketchy or undesirable. Rando inherited that connotation, usually in the context of a stranger who unexpectedly tries to make contact with another person, either in person or through social media. An older, synonymic term is weirdo, which sports an o attached to weird. On this model was beardo formed to refer to someone sporting a trendy-looking full, bushy beard, especially one who might also be tagged a rando or a weirdo.
Occasionally, a word ending in o is adopted from another language. In the case of mondo, which denotes excessiveness or outrageousness, it derives ultimately from the Italian word for world; the context is Mondo Cane, the title of an Italian documentary about human eccentricity. (The loose English translation of the title is A Dog’s Life; cane is cognate with canine.)
20 thoughts on “Slang Words Ending in “O””
Re “lie doggo”: The translation should be “LIE low,” not “LAY low”; it’s intransitive. And the British use “aggro” as an abbreviation for “aggravation,” too, as in “I don’t need the aggro.”
Yes, Melissa, you are quite correct. (Why is it that speakers cannot distinguish between “lie” and “lay”?)
I think beardo in the penultimate paragraph should be italic.
What? There is absolutely nothing about “Daddy-o”? “Hey, daddy-O! ”
Nothing about “Jack-o”? Nothing about “Rambo”?
“Jack-o” = “Jacko” = Michael Jackson, among other people.
“Jackie-O” = Jacqueline Kennedy, and especially after she married Aristotle Onassis.
Nothing about “wine-o” or “druggo” (“drug-o”).
“Willie-o!” (Willie Nelson, among others.)
“Billie-o!” (Billy Carter, among others.)
What? Nothing about “wacko”. This is driving me wacko, and especially after many years of “Wacko Jacko”. Now that he is deceased, does Michael Jackson get excessive respect?
We can do combos (combination), too:
Wacko wine-o, wacko drug-o (and I really mean it), wacko daddy-o, wacko willie-o, and speaking of Sylvester Stallone in a mean way, “Wacko Rambo”. We could even double-up for emphasis: “wacko weirdo”. (“Boy George” comes to mind, and especially since he got sent to prison for dealing in illegal drugs. Not just using them, but buying and selling them. We would think that he would have better ways of making money.)
“Loco” is a real word, and not slang, adopted from Spanish.
Now for combos, for people who had/have extreme problems:
“Wacko loco”, “loco weirdo”, “loco daddy-o”, “loco wine-o”, “loco drug-o” (George Michael and Boy George both spent wacko time in prison, too)”.
“Loco wacko daddy-o” = Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Josef Stalin, Chairman Mao, Ayatollah Khomeini, Vladimir Putin?
Pregnant = “preggo” in slang, especially British slang.
“Loco preggo” = “wacko preggo” = taking illegal drugs or drinking excessive alcohol while pregnant.
A dingo is a kind of Australian dog, wild or domesticated.
Hence, one “crazy dog” of a person is a “loco dingo”, or “wacko dingo”, or “weird-o dingo”. A “crazy dog” on drugs is a “wacko dingo druggo”.
Dale, you should have your own blog. You are an amazing source of information. My kids love reading your comments.
That is very nice of you, Anne-Marie!
I am amazed about your children: they know about Boy George, George Michael, and the “Loco wacko daddy-os” of the world like Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Khomeini, Goebbels, General Pinochet (of Chile), Mr. & Mrs. Ceausescu, Pol Pot,… If not, they can ask you and their other relatives! “Live and Learn”, as we say.
Do they know about “Wacko Jacko” and “Jackie-O” – Mrs. John F. Kennedy and Mrs. Aristotle Onassis?
Anne-Marie, do your kids know about “Daddy-o”, dingoes, loco weed, “23 Skiddoo”, ski-dos (skidoos), and Billy Carter?
If not, it is a joy that they are willing to learn!
Then there are the derogatory words like “gringo”. I call myself a gringo and I’m proud of it, and there are mean words for Italians (Dago), Jews, Mexicans, Chinese, Russians, Japanese (Jappo), and so forth that end in “o”. Learn them or not, but they are out there (just like the X-files).
And being a reader of customer reviews on travel sites, I often come across “resto” for restaurant, although it makes me cringe every time I see it.
D.A.W. = I think “preggers” is used more often in Britain for pregnant. I should say used to be common; it doesn’t seem to matter as much any more.
When I was a youthful activist in the 1960s, the press liked to dub our group “pinkos.”
Finally, add me to the list of those who wonder why nurses tell us to “lay down.” “Lay what down,” I think when I hear that.
Oh, Andy, that is an excellent one: “pinko”. (My mind was stuck on “Red-o”).
So from the past, pinko communists, pinko Russians, Red-o Russians, Red-o Cubans, pinko Chinese, the “pinko press”, and from the point-of-view of lots of Republicans, “pinko Democrats”.
Democrats referred to as “Demos”, leading to “pinko Demos”, “wacko Demos”, “spend-o Demos”, “loco spend-o Liberals”.
I am pretty sure that members of The Green Party have been referred to as “Green-os”, sometimes.
Classics: “the pinko press”, “pinko Demos”, “pinko commos”, “pinko commies”. Not that I agree with any of this, except the part about the communists. We hear, and we remember.
Watch out for this pair of words, from various Latin-based languages.
mondo and mundo , because mondo = world, mundo = mouth, and one of these sometimes means “Moon”, too. These get confusing in French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish (as their source languages).
I can’t keep these straight in German, either: der Mond and der Mund. I keep on thinking of a full moon, and the face of the Man on the Moon, with a big, round, open mouth, looking down on the world.
So, which one is it? The magazine: der Mond or der Mund?
To me, calling a magazine “The Mouth” makes sense.
I think the point of the article, though, was slang words formed by adding an O on the end; not words that happen to end in O, e.g. dingo, tomato, potato, uh o, etc.
There used to be a famous (known around the world) brand of cigarette lighter named the “Zippo”. There was a Japanese Navy twin-engined bomber made by Mitsubishi, but its Allied (U.S., Australia, New Zealand, etc.) code name for it was the “Betty”. As a fact, even when it was only somewhat shot-up in combat, a Betty would catch fire. Even the Japanese crewmen called these planes “Zippos”.
Also nicknames, Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo, Gaucho, Carlo, Freddo, Freddy-o, Ricko,.. Also, there is kind of an Australian candy bar named the “Freddo”, , but it is now made & distributed by the Cadbury Company of England.
I would never have known this if my father’s name had not been “Freddie”. Also, there was someone in the film “The Right Stuff” who was nicknamed “Freddo”.
“Demo” = “demonstration”, “Democrat”, “demolish”, “demolition”.
The corporal said, “Gimme that demo charge to drop down this air shaft.”
The historian wrote, “The Soviet soldiers took on the suicide missions of attaching demo charges to the Panther tanks by hand.”
The captain said, “That Canadian combat engineer is a real demo expert. Let him go blow up the bunker.”
“Freak-o!” (noun or adjective).
Idi Amin, Quadaffy, Khomeini, Lord Ha-Ha, Goebbels, Goering, Mengele, Karl Marx, Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and Josef Stalin were real freak-os.
Was Karl Marx Stadt a freak-o place to live?
Lord Ha-Ha and Tokyo Rose had freak-o ways of saying things during World War II.