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Alternative forms[edit]


Written form of a reduction of want to be, analysable as wanna +‎ be. Wannabe can be considered a conversion, category change, or functional shift.

While occasionally appearing in print, usually as a less reduced phrase, the popularity of the word took off in the mid 1980s following the Madonna wannabe fashion trend: wannabe at Google Ngram Viewer.


  • IPA(key): /ˈwɒnəbi/
  • (file)


wannabe (plural wannabes)

  1. (informal, derogatory, often attributive) Someone who wishes to be someone or do something, but lacks the qualifications or talent; an overeager amateur; an aspirant.
    Hollywood's restaurants are full of wannabe actors waiting to be discovered.
    • 2012, BioWare, quoting Sho D'hen, Mass Effect 3 (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →OCLC, PC, scene: Mars:
      Who the hell is that woman messing in my files? GET HER OUT OF HERE! I won't have my system messed up by some wannabe "expert" who'll be gone next week! Damn strangers who think they know it all but don't care about what we're really trying to achieve here.
    • 2022, Liam McIlvanney, The Heretic, page 251:
      He had the reputation of a wannabe hardman, riding his cousin's coattails.
  2. (informal, derogatory) Someone who wishes to be part of, or to assimilate to, a majority group of which they are not a member.
    • 2000, Bill Oddie, Gripping Yarns, page 126:
      Bigger, mongrelly and black, he was clearly a Doberman wannabe.


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