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See also: Göök


Etymology 1[edit]

First attested in the 1890s in reference to Filipinos (in particular, it is defined in an 1893 citation in Slang and Its Analogues as referring to prostitutes who followed army camps; it is defined similarly in a 1914 work).[1] The word was used of Nicaraguans during the US military occupation there in the 1910s, and Haitians during the US invasion there, when Herbert Seligman noted in 1920 that "The Haitians [...] are nicknamed 'Gooks'".[1][2]

Other early uses in the 1920 and 30s still refer to people from the Philippines (a 1921 work refers to the Philippines as "Gook Land"[3]), and the term seems to be connected to goo-goo (a Philippine person),[1] for which a variety of etymologies have been proposed; see that entry for more. (A later folk etymology suggests that during the Korean War, Koreans would shout Korean 美國 (Miguk, America) at Americans, who interpreted it as "me gook"; this ignores the many earlier examples of the word outside Korea.) Gook was used of Pacific Islanders by World War II, and Koreans and Vietnamese people by the time of the 1950s and 60s US military interventions there, which cemented the shift to meaning "Asian".[1]


  • IPA(key): /ɡuːk/;[4] IPA(key): /ɡʊk/ (less common)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uːk, -ʊk


gook (plural gooks)

  1. (slang, vulgar, derogatory, offensive, ethnic slur) A person of (South) East Asian descent; originally a native of the Philippines, but now especially:
    1. (US, derogatory) A Korean person (especially during the Korean War).
      • 2002, Colin Baker, Wild Goose: The Life and Death of Hugh Van Oppen, pages 59–60:
        A few days later he had a 'damned good party' at NORMASH, drinking brandy, and he then 'beat up a Gook [Korean] village.' This resulted in an 'awful hangover all day', [] Later, he walked back to his unit, alone at three o'clock in the morning, having 'swiped a Gook torch.'
    2. (US, derogatory) A Vietnamese insurgent in the Vietnam War, particularly a member of the Vietcong.
      • 1979, Gustav Hasford, The Short-Timers, New York: Bantam Books, published 1980, →ISBN, page 57:
        Of course, I've got so many confirmed kills I lost count. Nobody believes me because the gooks drag off their dead.
  2. (dated, derogatory) A foreigner (to the speaker), especially the (enemy) natives of a place the speaker's military is at war with or in.
    • 1924 September 30, John Webb, “Henri II”, in Adventure, volume 48, number 6, page 101:
      "Haiti is a country with a history, [] " "but how about the Marines, and the gendarmerie; aren't they on the job?" [] "You know darn well a civilian can't get away with handling a gook like a Marine can; [] "
    • 1999, M. Paul Holsinger, War and American Popular Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, Greenwood Publishing Group, →ISBN, page 204:
      In scenes [in Flight, 1929] based on the Marines' slaughter of several hundred Nicaraguan rebels at the Battle of Ocotal in July 1927, the two heroes, who are rivals for the hand of a vivacious nurse (Lila Lee), repeatedly attack the "gooks" in support of their comrades on the ground.
    1. (Rhodesia, derogatory) A black insurgent in the Rhodesian Bush War.
      • 1997, Dick Gledhill, One Commando: Rhodesia's Last Years & the Guerilla War it Never Lost, page 55:
        "But shit, man, don't we do a fucking good job of it. Jesus, we slew long gooks this last trip," quipped Mark.
Usage notes[edit]
  • In modern US usage, gook refers to an Asian, especially to a Vietnamese person in the context of the Vietnam War (particularly the Viet Cong). It is generally considered to be highly offensive.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Possible blend of goop +‎ gunk, or related to gobbledygook.



gook (countable and uncountable, plural gooks)

  1. (informal) Grime or mud.
    • 1983, Len O'Connor, A Reporter in Sweet Chicago[1], →ISBN, page 351:
      "Roost No More" was a yellow gook that Joe's people would spread around, for a fee, on the ledges of houses and commercial buildings plagued by pigeons.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]


gook (plural gooks)

  1. (slang) A dull or hapless person.
    • 1949, P.G. Wodehouse, The Mating Season:
      the poor old gook was spitting blood

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3
    1994 March 17, David R. Roediger, Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, and Working Class History, Verso, →ISBN, pages 117–119:
  2. ^ Seligman, Herbert J., “The Conquest of Haiti”, in The Nation, July 10, 1920.
  3. ^ Geoffrey Hughes, An Encyclopedia of Swearing (2015), page 208
  4. 4.0 4.1 gook”, in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.