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Coined in 1971 by Boston Globe editor Bill Cardoso. Of uncertain origin; OED proposes Italian gonzo (dolt) and/or Spanish ganso (dolt, goose).[1] The etymology supplied by Cardoso himself (French gonzeaux) is spurious.[2]


gonzo (comparative more gonzo, superlative most gonzo)

  1. (journalism) Using an unconventional, exaggerated and highly subjective style, often when the reporter takes part in the events of the story.
    • 1972, R. Pollack, Stop Presses, Chapter VI
      I ask Hunter to explain... Just what is Gonzo Journalism?.. “Gonzo all started with Bill Cardosa [sic],..after I wrote the Kentucky Derby piece for Scanlan's..the first time I realized you could write different. And..I got this note from Cardosa saying, ‘That was pure Gonzo journalism!’.. Some Boston word for weird, bizarre.”
  2. Unconventional, bizarre, crazy. [from 1974] [3]
    • 2007, Mark Dery, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink[1], page 121:
      Nicholson’s Torrance is an evil clown [] Appropriately, pop culture has embraced him as a gonzo antihero: ads for T-shirts emblazoned with the “Here’s Johnny” Nicholson

Derived terms[edit]


gonzo (plural gonzos)

  1. Gonzo journalism or a journalist who produces such journalism.
    • 2000, Hunter S. Thompson and Douglas Brinkley, Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist, 1968-1976:
      “Unstable,” indeed! Those swine. Next year we should demand a Gonzo category—or maybe RS should give it. Of course. “The First Annual Rolling Stone Award for the Year's Finest Example of Pure Gonzo Journalism.”
  2. A wild or crazy person.


  1. ^ gonzo, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, April 2013.
  2. ^ What is Gonzo? The Etymology of an Urban Legend, Martin Hirst, 2004.
  3. ^ “gonzo” in The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989, →ISBN.

Further reading[edit]



Borrowed from Spanish ganso.


gonzo m (plural gonzi)

  1. simpleton, dolt
  2. dupe


  • French: gonze



gonzo m (plural gonzos)

  1. hinge
    • 1995, José Saramago, Ensaio sobre a cegueira, Caminho:
      Esperavam o ruído do portão ao ser aberto, o guincho agudo dos gonzos por untar, []
      They waited for the sound of the gate being opened, the shrill squeal of the hinges in need of oil, []