Definition: A member of an anti-social street-gang (and yes – I am aware of the irony of using the adjective ‘anti-social’ to describe a social grouping such as a ‘gang’ …)

Pronunciation: Say it like you see it – droog.

Origin: Originally an old Slavonic word (drugu) meaning ‘companion’; indeed, many Slavic languages today have a variant, including the Bohemian ‘drug’ (companion) and the Lithuanian ‘draugas’ (travelling companion). Indeed, there was an Old English dryht that came from the same root.

Why this word?

The use of droog in modern-day English has a unique heritage. Although there is an Old English version if it, it died out. The modern version can be dated to 1962, when the novelist Anthony Burgess used it to refer to a gang member in A Clockwork Orange – Burgess having borrowed it from the Russian. Thus, we have an interesting word with an even more interesting and somewhat unique background – a word with an Old English root but yet is still an import.

How to use this word

Despite droog being a genuinely interesting word both in construction and in pronunciation, I fear that it is not yet ready for general use. While it may aptly describe a young gang member, deployment of the word droog would be taken not as a sign of linguistic prowess, but, rather, merely a sign of being an Anthony Burgess fan.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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