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See also: gunzel



Etymology 1[edit]

From Yiddish גענדזל(gendzl, gosling), from Middle High German gensel, diminutive of gans (goose).


gunsel (plural gunsels)

  1. A young man kept for homosexual purposes; a catamite.
    • 1929, Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon:
      The boy’s eyes [] ran over Spade’s body from shoulders to knees, [] ¶ “Another thing,” Spade repeated, glaring at the boy: “Keep that gunsel away from me while you’re making up your mind. I’ll kill him. []
  2. (street and prison slang) A passive partner in anal intercourse.

Etymology 2[edit]

By misunderstanding of the 1929 Maltese Falcon quotation above (which survived in a popular 1941 film adaptation). The novel was originally serialized in a magazine, Black Mask, whose editor refused to allow vulgarities. Hammett used the word gunsel knowing that the editor would likely misunderstand it as relating to gun, and therefore allow it.[1][2]


gunsel (plural gunsels)

  1. A gun-carrying hoodlum or other criminal.


  1. ^ William Safire, “Dirigiste” (On Language column, 2000 April 30), in The New York Times; relevant portion also in The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time, Simon and Schuster (2004), →ISBN, page 35.
  2. ^ Michael Quinion, “Gunsel” (World Wide Words piece, 2006 August 12).