English: hooligan

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Ben Jamin, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    There are innumerable theories explaining the etymology of the word ‘hooligan’ in English. Most of them are based on urban legends. Does anybody know any explanation with a solid linguistic base and documentation?
    Is there really an Irish surname “hooligan”?
  2. aruniyan Senior Member


    The sound reminds me of another Indian word, Coolie.

    From Wikipedia
    Cooli in Tamil is payoff, but not sure if this is a native word. But here we use a derogatory term to Say "Coolikku Maaradikkira koottam" meaning "Crowds who assist in mischief for coolie/payment".

    Not sure if hooligan and Coolie is related?
  3. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    Yes, there is an Irish surname "Hooligan", sometimes "Houlihan".

    I think the term comes from a family of that name who were renowned trouble-makers.
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    You know, there are actually several very good English etymological dictionaries, plus an excellent historical dictionary in the form of the OED. Maybe it might be good to look in one of these before launching into wild speculation.
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Wild speculation, you say?
  6. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hi Kevin,

    Houlihan is an anglicized form of Gaelic "Ó hUallacháin" which means 'descendant of Uallachán'
    Hooligan was a fictious family name in a music hall sketch. So no connection, other than similar spelling in English.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012
  7. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Thank you! We have now at least one fact to build on: the Hooligan name is fictitious, and nonexistent in Ireland.
  8. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Not so fast ; some on-line examples do exist for UK, but are rare. (Pussy Riot for example gets far more hits - with that spelling.) Suggests to me that Hooligan is still possibly a spelling corruption of an originally Irish surname. My point was that it's connection with Houlihan was far from assured.
  9. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    I accidentally came across the word "hooley" -- a gathering or party in Ireland. Would this word be related to "Hooligan"?
    Would it be an earlier form than "hooligan"? Can "hooligan" come from it or at least be a cognate, or did they develop independently? Or was it perhaps the other way around, or are they are unrelated?
  10. Lugubert Senior Member

    According to polyglot Erik Gunnemark (some 25 languages), whom I paraphrase, superpolyglot Pent Nurmekund (translated from 80 languages) wrote (my translation)
    PN found similar words with Turkic peoples in Central Asia (e.g. Uzbeks and Uighurs), and even Chinese (wúlàihàn: a rascally man), Koreans (murvehan) and Japanese (buraikan). For various reasons, it is however more probable that a Mongolian or Tungusian word is the origin of the Russian word chuligán. In Mongolian, chulagan is used for thieves; in Tungusian languages chulacha means 'thief' and hukun (chulun) 'loafer'.

    Russian sometimes borrowed from Asian languages, but there's hardly any export to the East. We can thus assume that the word hooligan (Swedish: huligan) went westwards from the Far East, first to Russia, then to Finland, and then to Sweden.

    Source: Erik V. Gunnemark: Konsten att lära sig språk (English version: Amorey Gethin, Erik V. Gunnemark: The Art and Science of Learning Languages).
  11. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Are those assumptions or simply conjecture?
    The link in my earlier post, states the earliest written use in England was as follows :

    London newspapers in April and May 1894 carried reports of a case at Southwark Police Court in South London where it was said that Charles Clarke, aged 19, charged with assault on police, was
    A bit after any of the Norse influence on Old English, I'd say.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2012
  12. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I also found once an article claiming that the word ‘hooligan’ in English originated from Russian, transferred to England by Jewish immigrants from Russia in the end of the XIX century. The Irish origin should then be a conjecture related to the mentioned musical sketch. The existence of Mongolian chulagan (khulagan?), the fact that there are Russian words ending with –gan (like malchugan) is an indication that it could be possible that the word originated in the Russian language. But we still lack evidence.
  13. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    That much is true.
    But with no written trace, it's not quite etymology, is it?
  14. ElizabethKnox New Member

    I wonder whether this word might not have come from the Mongol leader Hulugu, who sacked Baghdad in 1233? He had his soldiers break dykes and aqueducts and destroy hospitals and observatories, and removed the books from the library to make a bridge across the Tigris for his foot soldiers. I would imagine the name Hulugu would stick in people's minds with certain associations.
  15. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello ElizabethKnox,
    Welcome to the forums.
    Interesting thought, only Etymology would require you filling the void between Baghdad 1233 & April 1894 (the earliest written use in England noted in #11). Not so easy with little or no early documentation available. This partly because of the dreaded Khans destroying books all the time. However bear in mind, their destruction of the irrigation systems of Iran and Iraq meant that most of the local population would have starved, so their "oral memory" would have died with them.

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