‘Gooned’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on December 16, 2022

Did someone tell you they were ‘gooned,’ and you don’t know what it means? In this article, let’s take a look at the definition, origin, and examples of the term.

In short, ‘gooned’ is both an Australian slang term meaning “drunk” and also a word that refers to the act of being kidnapped legally as a minor and transported against one’s will to a rehab facility or program.

What Does 'Gooned' Mean?

The word ‘gooned’ has several different potential meanings, so you’ll want to listen to the context when trying to determine which definition is more appropriate. ‘Gooned’ can mean:

  • Drunk (Australian English)
  • The act of being legally kidnapped as a child and forcibly transported to boarding school, boot camp, wilderness therapy, or some other rehabilitation facility

What Does ‘Goon’ Mean?

‘Goon’ has several definitions, some of which are related to the above definitions for ‘gooned.’

In informal Australian English, the word ‘goon’ means “cheap or inferior cask wine” or “a wine flagon or cask.” As you can see, this relates to the first definition of ‘gooned’ above.

‘Goon’ also is a verb that means “to legally kidnap a child and transport them forcibly to boarding school, boot camp, wilderness therapy, or another type of rehab facility.” You can use the past participle ‘gooned,’ the present participle ‘gooning,’ or the third-person singular simple present ‘goons.’

In American English, however, the most common definition of the word ‘goon’ is either:

  • A hired thug or henchman that has little intelligence
  • A fool; is someone that is considered stupid, silly, outlandish, or awkward

In the sport of ice hockey, ‘goon’ is a derogatory term for a fighter or enforcer.

The word ‘goon’ was also used during WWII as prisoner-of-war slang and in the UK to mean a “German guard in a prisoner-of-war camp.”

Additionally, if you come across the term ‘goon’ online, there is a possibility that the word is in reference to a person that is a member of the comedy website Something Awful.

Where Does 'Gooned' Come From?

The etymology of the words ‘gooned’ and ‘goon’ depends on which definition of the terms you are concerned with.

When you’re talking about the word ‘gooned’ refers to being drunk, we look to the Australian English term ‘goon,’ which means “a cask or wine flagon” or a “cheap or inferior cask wine.” Though it isn’t entirely known where this word comes from, it is possible that it comes from the Aboriginal English word ‘goom’, which means “methylated spirits.” It’s also thought that it could be a form of diminutive slang for the word ‘flagon,’ which refers to a specific type of jug-like vessel.

The meaning of the word ‘gooned’ refers to being legally kidnapped and brought to a rehabilitation program or facility of some kind. Though the etymology of this particular definition isn’t easy to track down, it seems plausible that it stems from the meaning of ‘a hired thug or henchman.’

It might seem strange that there would be such a thing as legal kidnapping, but the reality is that parents can hire rehab organizations to seize their children when they believe they are troubled and transport them to rehab facilities or programs against their will. This is usually done with a group of large, intimidating men that show up at night and force the adolescent into a vehicle and whisk them away. With this image, it’s easy to see how the phrase could derive from the “henchman” definition of ‘goon.’

The word ‘goon’ meaning ‘fool’ or ‘hired thug’ derives from the now obsolete word ‘gony’ and is shortened from ‘gooney.’ ‘Gony’ is a word from around 1580 that meant “simpleton.” The origin of this word is unknown, but what is known is that the term was used to describe albatross and other large, clumsy birds by soldiers starting in the 1830s.

It’s also speculated that the word ‘gony’ could also have come from the Middle English word ‘gone’, which was a variation of a word for “man, person”: ‘gome.’

It wasn’t until about one hundred years ago, in 1921, that the word ‘goon’ started carrying the meaning ‘stupid person.’ The definition of ‘fool’ was reinforced by the British radio comedy program The Goon Show, which ran from 1951 to 1960.

The ‘hired thug’ meaning of goon comes from around 1938 and was heavily influenced by the Popeye comic strip series and the character Alice the Goon.

The word ‘goon’ referring to a prison guard was influenced both by the notion of ‘hired thug’ and ‘fool’ in relation to the word ‘goon.’

Examples of 'Gooned' In Sentences

Now that we’ve taken a thorough look at the words ‘gooned’ and ‘goon’ in all their meanings let’s check out some example sentences.

First, here are some examples of using the word ‘gooned’ in sentences with the definition of ‘drunk’:

  • “She normally acts like a perfect angel, but she causes all kinds of trouble when she’s gooned.”
  • “I was so gooned last night I don’t even know where I went after I left the bar.”
  • “Wearing expensive jewelry when you’re going to the bar to get gooned is never a smart idea.”

Next, let’s see some examples of the word ‘gooned’ with the meaning of being forcibly taken to a rehab facility:

  • “Sam was gooned in the middle of the night and whisked away to a wilderness rehab program in Utah.”
  • No one even knew that Sally had a problem with drugs until she was gooned.”
  • “I cannot believe Tom’s parents really thought that the best way to effect change in his life was to have him gooned.”

Finally, let’s use the word ‘goon’ in some sentences using the definition of “fool,” “stupid person,” or hired henchmen:

  • “Johnny, if you don’t start to master spelling and grammar, you’re going to look like a goon you’re whole life.”
  • “The soldiers knew this was their one chance to escape when the only goon on duty fell asleep at his post.”
  • “No, I don’t really think he’s a goon, but he might want to start taking himself more seriously if he wants other people to do the same.”

Other Ways to Say 'Gooned'

How else can you convey the same meaning as ‘gooned’?

If you’re trying to describe someone (or yourself) as ‘gooned’ as in “drunk,” you could also use the following words and phrases:

  • Sloshed
  • Wrecked
  • Intoxicated
  • Drunk as a skunk
  • Blind drunk
  • Drunk as a lord
  • Inebriated
  • Under the influence
  • Pie-eyed

We could go on forever– there are countless ways to describe someone as drunk. There can be subtle differences between these definitions in terms of the state of drunkenness they describe, so it might be useful to look more thoroughly into each word and term rather than simply using them interchangeably.

If you want to find another word or idiom for the word ‘goon’ meaning fool or a stupid person, here are some possibilities:

  • Not the sharpest tool in the shed
  • Dunce
  • The light is on, but nobody’s home
  • Numbskull
  • Not the brightest crayon in the box
  • Clown
  • Not playing with a full deck
  • Ding-bat

Again, there are a lot of different ways to call someone foolish or stupid in English. Some of these synonyms and idioms are more geared towards calling someone stupid– such as ‘numbskull,’-- while others, like ‘clown,’ can be used to call someone a joker or a boor.

Are you having a blast learning new English idioms to add to your vocabulary? You’ve come to the right place! At Writing Tips, we specialize in in-depth articles about idioms and phrases to help you add depth, color, and flavor to your writing and speech.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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