Definition of palooka in US English:



North American
  • 1A stupid, clumsy, or uncouth person.

    ‘these bearded, stumbling palookas in their peasants' breeches’
    • ‘Should the two palookas with the hardware be in cahoots or feeling underpaid, they would have loved to learn of the $11,000 in traveller's checks, $1, 000 camera, credit card, and Canadian passport I was packing.’
    • ‘The other type of palooka is more difficult to recognize, but more valuable - the stooge.’
    • ‘Maybe it's the only reason Neo's been hanging out with an old palooka like me.’
    • ‘They get called all kinds of names: tomato can, palooka, trial horse.’
    • ‘Unless they're all palookas from the South Side, the writers come from leafy suburbs; and that loading zone behind the shopping center is not an alley.’
    • ‘The 20-something Reeve who shot to fame in the first Superman movie was an attractive man - much handsomer than the block-jawed palooka of the original comic books.’
    • ‘And frankly, a palooka Rollins is: covered head to toe with tattoos and belching metallic tales of power run amok and self-sufficiency.’
    lout, boor, barbarian, neanderthal, churl, clown, gawk, hulk, bumpkin, yokel
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    1. 1.1dated An inferior or average prizefighter.
      ‘he was just another palooka trying to muscle in on the fight racket’
      • ‘Relegated to fighting palookas in tiny towns, he was asked to tape a 10-second promotion for a local TV station in Florida.’
      • ‘One boxer has plenty of pop, can hit bad pitches, and is a fun at-bat, while the other is your average palooka with a wood stick.’
      • ‘Tyson was the palooka in his last fight, knocked out by Danny Williams in the fourth round last July 30.’
      • ‘It's not that Buchanan doesn't make any good points; in any melee, any palooka with a wild swing is bound to land a punch or two.’
      • ‘Like the palooka who pulls himself up off the canvas after each knockdown, the dedicated employee is expected never to waver, no matter what battering he takes.’
      • ‘And then there was a big, brawling, pockmarked palooka with tight curly hair and a big gut whose huge, ham-hock hands relentlessly pounded his victims into total, abject submission.’


1920s: of unknown origin (popularized by the comic strip character Joe Palooka, a well-meaning but clumsy prizefighter).