Compact Oxford English Dictionary

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A hooligan is generally referred to as a “rough, lawless young troublemaker, typically of a gang ˮ (Worthington,2016). Even though the etymology of the word is still open to multiple questions and interpretations, the Compact Oxford English Dictionary states that the word may have originated from the surname of a violent, rowdy Irish family in a music hall song of the 1890. However, other sources, such as The Irish Times (1999) suggested that the word is either historically linked to Hooley’s gang, or a reference to Patrick Hoolihan, whose name might have also been Hooligan, as written by Clarence Henry Rook in 1899, in his book, Hooligan Nights. The book delves into the daily life of Victorian Londoners, mainly in the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, as the writer tells the story of Patrick Hoolihan, a young criminal, who was heavily involved in burglary-related incidents, as well as; heated street fights, along with his fellow cohort members.

The book also suggests that the word ‘hooligan’ first appeared in London police-court reports in 1894 for the name of the Hooligan Boys gang. Four years later, the word ‘hooligan’ became even more popular in the London Press after a member of the gang butchered an innocent soul in an utterly savage manner. After killing a policeman in a chaotic street fight, Patrick Hooligan was sentenced to life prison, and then, the Hooligan’s name became even more commonly infamous among the British communities that the newspapers started to openly and publicly refer to violent troublemakers as ‘hooligans’ and their acts of vandalism as ‘hooliganism’ (‘Irish Hooligan of Southwark’). According to, the Oxford Research Centre stated that football violence probably first originated in England in the thirteenth century.

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Football often was a game animated by the youth of neighboring villages and towns, using an inflated pig’s bladder as a ball in quite mayhemic scenes of rowdy behaviour and aggressive playing style. Medieval football matches were also opportunities to settle personal disagreements, feuds and especially land disputes between over a hundred players. In addition, these lunatic rituals of ball-kicking during football games were accompanied by “heavy drinking ˮ which used to result in fatal injuries and even death sometimes. Moreover, after a series of seriously troublesome incidents, King Edward III of England eventually attempted to permanently ban football, because he believed it was a disturbing factor that would halt his military training and would also culminate in social upheavals across the country.

Centuries later, football was standardised and became more structured and regulated, but was indeed not free from violence, as gangs and mobs were still being regularly engaged in tumultuous disorderly conducts that often involved attacking match officials and the opposition’s fans. In 1909, for instance, Britain woke up to the shocking news that emerged from Scotland, as over 6.000 spectators were involved in a bloody full-scale football riot after officials turned down the fans’ desire for extra time to settle a draw between Celtic and Rangers. The incident led to massive casualties with 54 gravely injured policeman as well as other severe pitch and ground damages. Even when time went by, disorderly behaviour was still common amongst football supporters, but it is only since the Post Second World War that it was considered to be a solemn problem that drew widespread public attention, and desperately called for a government intervention to lay it off

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Compact Oxford English Dictionary. (2022, Apr 21). Retrieved from

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