The origin of…Hooligan

“Even hooligans marry, though they know that marriage is for a little while. It is alimony that is for ever.” Quentin Crisp

Post 79 Hooligan

A hooligan is a person, usually a youth, who takes part in destructive, disruptive and anti-social behavior. The original meaning meant a young ruffian who was a member of a street gang. The word appeared in print in the London newspaper The Era in 1891 mentioning a music-hall song, The O´Hooligan Boys.
Then in 1894 the term appeared in police reports in London, in which the name of a gang in the Lambeth area was mentioned, the Hooligan Boys. More incidents followed and the word was popularized by the press, like the Daily Graphic that wrote in August 1898: “The avalanche of brutality which, under the name of ‘Hooliganism’ … has cast such a dire slur on the social records of South London.” (

The word hooligan began to be associated with violence in sports (football) as of the 1970´s in the UK, although violence at football matches is a phenomenon that started much earlier. In 1341, Edward II banned football because he thought the chaos around the matches might lead to social unrest, or even treason.
In the 1880´s UK gangs of football supporters attacked referees, opposing supporters and players and intimidated neighborhoods.
Their allegiance to a football team is the main factor binding hooligans together and an important factor causing hooliganism is the desire to earn prestige. Despite efforts to find a relationship between hooligans and social background, there is no systematic relationship between vandalism and social background. On the contrary, it appears that hooligans come from all different kind of environments. Hooliganism is also not restricted to a certain city, region, or country. Hooligans are often like other young men who have problems at school and in the family situation, particularly in connection to authority figure relationships. Without a doubt, young men with a bigger predisposition to violence are attracted to the possibilities offered by being part of a hooligan group and attending a risk match.
Although there is still football hooliganism in Europe, outbreaks of violence are much less common than 20 years ago thanks to banning orders and better policing.

In the Soviet Union the word khuligan was used for scofflaws. Hooliganism (Хулига́нство in Russian) was listed as a criminal offense, like disorderly conduct in some other jurisdictions, and is used as a catch-all charge for prosecuting unapproved conduct. Hooliganism is defined generally in the Criminal Code of Russia as an average gravity crime. In 2012 the feminist punk group Pussy Riot was imprisoned on hooliganism charges.

a usually young man who does noisy and violent things as part of a group or gang (source: Merriam Webster).

It is uncertain where the word hooligan comes from. Some say it is a variant of the Irish surname Houlihan, a characteristic comic Irish name in music hall songs and newspapers of the 1880s and 1890s. Clarence Rook claims in his 1899 book Hooligan Nights that the word comes from Patrick Hoolihan (or Hooligan), an Irish bouncer and thief who lived in London. Another theory suggests the word derives from the Irish word houli or hooley, meaning wild party.

Hooligan in other languages:
Dutch: de hooligan
Spanish: el hooligan
Italian: il hooligan

Picture: Happy Hooligan by Frederick Burr Opper.


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