Definition of punk in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /pʌŋk/


1 (also punk rock) [mass noun] A loud, fast-moving, and aggressive form of rock music, popular in the late 1970s: punk had turned pop music and its attendant culture on its head
More example sentences
  • The breakthrough of punk internationally put rock music and popular culture back in the hands of fans and amateurs.
  • From death metal to violins and Jewish harps, folk music, punk, soul, reggae and gospel, we've got it all.
  • He gave early exposure to forms of music such as punk, reggae and hip-hop and hundreds of musicians recorded sessions for his show.
1.1 (also punk rocker) [count noun] An admirer or player of punk rock, typically characterized by coloured spiked hair and clothing decorated with safety pins or zips: punks fought Teds on the Kings Road on Saturday afternoons
More example sentences
  • Wearing black leather, dark eye makeup, and dyed hair, the punks stand before graffiti-covered brick walls and inside doorways scowling at the camera.
  • Back then he was a punk with green hair and ear rings.
  • In another, she mingles with East Village punks in pink-and-orange hair, distressed biker jacket, shredded tights, and sleep-deprived eyes.
2North American informal A worthless person (often used as a general term of abuse): you think any of these punks they got fighting today could stand up to Joe Louis?
More example sentences
  • A cranky, old, blind man, who lives next door is always barking, ‘Turn down that music, you lousy punks!’
  • Don, you and the rest of your little buddies are the same worthless rat punks now that you were as 12-year-olds.
  • He walks up and says, ‘They're nothing but a bunch of punks.’
2.1A criminal or thug: there’s never been a better time to take our streets back from the punks
More example sentences
  • He had the kind of face that made him look like a punk or thug.
  • Two upside-down Yakuza punks were stepping up onto the platform.
  • And we today would be worshiping some pantheon of gangster punks instead of Him.
2.2US derogatory (In prison slang) a passive male homosexual: he determined to be made into no one’s punk
2.3An inexperienced young person: [as modifier]: you were a nobody, a punk kid starting out
More example sentences
  • I was a punk, know-it-all kid to summarize. I have matured drastically since 16 and continue to do so.
  • Compared to Europe, the US seems like the immature fifteen year old punks in the back of the room giggling when someone says ‘boobie.’
  • The kings of the heartogram didn't fail to impress, with a diverse crowd gathered, including everyone from young punks to soccer moms and even a haggard old bat dancing around in lingerie.
3 [mass noun] chiefly North American Soft, crumbly wood that has been attacked by fungus, used as tinder.


1North American informal In poor condition: I felt too punk to eat
2Relating to punk rock and its associated subculture: a punk band a punk haircut
More example sentences
  • Already garnering rave reviews, Cherry details the life of a young woman in Winnipeg's punk subculture as she gets entangled with an abusive boyfriend.
  • The most moving of the three, this chapter has Spheeris move away from focusing on the performers and looks at the punk subculture itself.
  • The Damned were the first to publish a punk rock single, the first punk band to tour the States and influencers of countless other bands.



Example sentences
  • Most important and enduring English modern rock band - began as minimalist punkish trio before defining and transcending goth, mutating into psychedelic jam band, before returning to bright alt-rock.
  • Has uniquely combined guitar grandeur of arena rock, punkish independence, Celtic spirituality, even electronica: all held together by Bono's transcendent vision and charisma.
  • The four-piece combo, soon growing to five, demanded attention and are infectiously funky, whether busting out the jams with their punkish spirited guitar pop, or speaker busting, live electronic mashups.


Late 17th century (in sense 3 of the noun): perhaps, in some senses, related to archaic punk 'prostitute', also to spunk.

  • Long before the days of Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols, all sorts of people found themselves labelled as punks. In the past the word has been used as a term for a prostitute, a male homosexual, and in show business for a youth or young animal. In American English it has been used since the early 20th century as a disparaging word for a person and in particular a young hooligan or petty criminal. In the film Dirty Harry (1971) Clint Eastwood says to a crook: ‘I know what you're thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself…You've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?’ Since the 1970s the word has been applied to admirers or players of punk rock, a loud, fast-moving, aggressive form of rock music: the first US mention of punk rock comes in 1971, five years before the first British punk record, ‘New Rose’ by the Damned. The original punk was not a person at all, but, in 17th-century North America, a term for soft crumbly wood that has been attacked by fungus. This was used as tinder as it caught fire easily. Its ultimate origin is not known, although it probably related to spunk (mid 16th century), which originally meant a spark, a fire or tinder, before developing the senses ‘courage and determination’ (late 18th century), and ‘semen’ (late 19th century) which is itself of uncertain origin.

Words that rhyme with punk

bunk, chunk, clunk, drunk, dunk, flunk, funk, gunk, hunk, Monck, monk, plunk, shrunk, skunk, slunk, stunk, sunk, thunk, trunk

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: punk

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.