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larrikin (plural larrikins)

  1. (Australia, New Zealand, slang, dated) A brash and impertinent, possibly violent, troublemaker, especially a youth; a hooligan.
    • 1896, Henry Lawson, “A Visit of Condolence”, in While the Billy Boils, Sydney, N.S.W.: Angus and Robertson [], →OCLC, page 209:
      How dare you talk to me like that, you young larrikin? Be off! or I'll send for a policeman.
    • 1913, David Paul Gooding, Picturesque New Zealand, Chapter XII,
      Another man told me there never had been a staff on the hill; but if there had been, perhaps larrikins would have removed it. For larrikinism is one of the evils of New Zealand. Everywhere there one hears of the larrikin, or young hoodlum. Larrikins are an unorganized, mischievous fraternity. They are always despoiling or marring public or private property or making people the butt of coarse jokes and jeers. If something is stolen, "the larrikins took it"; if windows or park seats are broken, "the larrikins did it."
    • 1938, Xavier Herbert, Capricornia, Chapter II, p. 18,
      “Even Oscar began to drink to excess. But he never bawled and pranced and wallowed in mud and came home in the arms of shouting larrikins.”
  2. (Australia, slang) A high-spirited person who playfully rebels against authority and conventional norms.
    • 1988, Gavin Souter, Acts of Parliament: A Narrative History of the Senate and House of Representatives, Commonwealth of Australia, page 432,
      When Browne's turn came, he went down like a true larrikin, giving cheek to the end.
    • 2006 September 5, The Guardian, It's like a part of Australia has died,
      "We're all a bit embarrassed by him [Steve Irwin]. He puts that image of Australia to the world - that larrikin attitude - and we're not all like that," says Milo Laing, 27, the manager of an Australian-themed bar on Shaftesbury Avenue.
    • 2006, Nick Economou, 26: Jeff Kennett: The larrikin metropolitan, Paul Strangio, Brian Costar (editors), The Victorian Premiers, 1856-2006, page 363,
      From the moment he had become opposition leader following the defeat of Lindsay Thompson's government in 1982, Jeff Kennett had been viewed as a political larrikin.

Derived terms[edit]


larrikin (comparative more larrikin, superlative most larrikin)

  1. (Australia, slang) Exhibiting the characteristics or behaviour of a larrikin; playfully rebellious against and contemptuous of authority and convention.
    • 1995, Alistair Thomson, A crisis of masculinity? Australian military manhood in the Great War, in Joy Damousi, Marilyn Lake (editors), Gender and War: Australians at War in the Twentieth Century, page 138,
      Despite his skills as a singer and storyteller, Percy sometimes felt like an outsider among the diggers, excluded by his own ideal and practice of moral manhood from the more larrikin masculinity that he perceived to be predominant.
    • 2002, Peter Craven, Introduction, in Quarterly Essay, QE 5 2002, page iii,
      Mungo MacCallum is hardly typecast as the chronicler of the story of what has gone right and wrong about the business of immigration, regular and irregular, to this country but this most larrikin and cold-eyed of one-time Canberra chroniclers brings to this story all his wit and dryness and power of mind.
    • 2006, Allon J. Uhlmann, Family, Gender and Kinship in Australia: The Social and Cultural Logic of Practice and Subjectivity, page 151,
      Another area was occupied by a group of guests with a clearly more larrikin style, and who very much belonged to the dominated fraction. [] The language used was rather different (more ‘crude’ in the second one), clothing style was different too (less trendy, and much cheaper clothes in the second group), as was appearance in general (heavier tattoos in the second group, more people with bad teeth, more of the men with the working-class goatee) and the interaction was generally more boisterous.


  1. ^ 1875, Florence Davenport Hill, What We Saw in Australia, page 93 — The word " larrikin " is supposed to have originated in the pronunciation of an Irish policeman, who, on being asked what had caused the appearance before the magistrate of certain young offenders, accounted for it by saying “they had been ‘ larrikin ’” (larking).

Further reading[edit]