Definition of honky-tonk in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhäNGkē ˌtäNGk/
Pronunciation: /ˈhôNGkē ˌtôNGk/


1North American A cheap or disreputable bar, club, or dance hall, typically where country music is played: country bands at highway honky-tonks
More example sentences
  • Here, you can get a taste of Memphis nightlife, where the blues continues to play in classic clubs and honky-tonks.
  • As someone who has sometimes wondered about her own capacity to drink herself to death, I was also intrigued by the shots of men and women inside honky-tonks and other bars, sometimes at after-show functions.
  • To soak up a little of the famous Nashville atmosphere, head for the honky-tonks in Downtown, a row of rough-and-ready bars all playing covers of your favourite country songs.
1.1 [as modifier] Squalid and disreputable: a honky-tonk beach resort
More example sentences
  • I'd hope to see the site redeveloped in a tasteful way and not in a honky-tonk fashion.
  • The town is but a decayed, honky-tonk version of the company town, with everything and everybody in it owned by Mr. Potter, the rapacious banker (and the town itself is, of course, Pottersville).
2US A style of country and western music of the 1950s associated with honky-tonks: good-time urban cowboy fare with a hint of honky-tonk and a healthy measure of rock
More example sentences
  • Following a tempestuous marriage, Nelson moved in 1953 to Fort Worth, became a country deejay and played bars, mixing honky-tonk and preaching.
  • The rise of honky-tonk and postwar traditional music strengthened the ‘southernness’ of country music, but country pop gave Nashville its most important tool in the battle for respectability.
  • Punching the buttons I find a country music station that's awash with honky-tonk.
3 [often as modifier] Ragtime piano music.
Example sentences
  • There is music for everyone in this city - traditional jazz, honky-tonk piano, Cajun, zydeco, rhythm and blues, gospel, rock, and country.
  • But when the foursome kept playing ragtime and honky-tonk music into the early hours the council decided to pull the plug.
  • The pianist had grand piano, harmonium, honky-tonk piano and celeste, and the percussionist had a range of tuned and untuned percussion.


Late 19th century: of unknown origin.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: hon·ky-tonk

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