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American English, from Japanese 班長 (hanchō, squad leader), from 19th c. Mandarin 班長 (bānzhǎng, “team leader”). Probably entered English during World War II: many apocryphal stories describe American soldiers hearing Japanese prisoners-of-war refer to their lieutenants as hanchō.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈhɑn.t͡ʃoʊ/, enPR: hŏnʹchō
  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈhɒn.tʃəʊ/, enPR: hŏnʹchō
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɒntʃəʊ
  • Hyphenation: hon‧cho


honcho (plural honchos)

  1. (informal) boss, leader
    • 1986, Oliver Stone, Platoon, spoken by Private Gator Lerner (Johnny Depp):
      Says they had no choice. Says the NVA killed the old honcho when he said no. Now he says all the rice is theirs.
    • 1992 October 26, Calvin Sims, “Hard Times, Even on Rodeo Drive”, in The New York Times[1], ISSN 0362-4331:
      For years, snobbery has been a hallmark of this city of wealth and glamour, movie stars and entertainment honchos, where it is possible to spend $20,000 for a watch, $6,000 for a suit with 14-karat gold pinstriping or $15,000 for a handbag of rare leather.
    • 1999, Dave Barry, Big Trouble, Penguin, published 2010, →ISBN, page 13:
      Mostly he wrote what the higher honchos in the newsroom referred to, often condescendingly, as “offbeat” stories.
    • 2001, Michael Moore, Stupid White Men, page 22:
      Gulfstream makes jets for both Hollywood honchos and foreign governments like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Derived terms[edit]



honcho (third-person singular simple present honchos, present participle honchoing, simple past and past participle honchoed)

  1. (transitive, informal, Canada, US) To lead or manage.
    • 2010, Buddy Valastro, Cake Boss, Simon and Schuster, published 2020, →ISBN, page 142:
      I had never honchoed that many people so even something as simple as ordering them to knead dough or fondant became an important decision.
    • 2012, David Lewis Yewdall, Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound, Taylor & Francis, →ISBN:
      The task of choosing the clips that comprised the allotted 10 minutes in the bake-off was left to the supervising sound editor, as it was he or she who honchoed the preparation of the soundtrack for the rerecording mixing stage in the first place.

Further reading[edit]




  1. Rōmaji transcription of ほんちょ