Printable Version
Pronunciation: hus-gæw Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: (Slang) A jail or prison.

Notes: This word is a facetious slang word rarely found in formal English. The S is more usually pronounced [z], but the preferred pronunciation is with an [s]. The plural of hoosegow is hoosegows, and that is the only form or family it has.

In Play: Although this word may be used to refer to prisons, it most often indicates the local jail (that's gaol if you live in the UK): "Miss Deeds collected parking tickets for 12 years and refused to pay them until threatened with a weekend in the hoosegow." Always expect to get a smile when you say something like this: "Bud Light has boozed his way into the local hoosegow so many times, he is more at home there than he is at home."

Word History: This word is a mispronunciation of the Spanish word, juzgado [huz-gah-dho] "a court, tribunal", that was borrowed by our brethren out West. The Spanish word is based on the verb juzgar "to judge", the Spanish descendant of Latin iudicare "to pass judgment". The Latin word goes back to the noun, ius [yus] "law". Since Classical Latin didn't have the letters J or Y, the Romans used the letter I the way we use Y: as a consonant before vowels (as in yes) and as a vowel after consonants (as in very). Later Romance languages, such as French and Spanish, replaced the consonantal I with J. For that reason the root ius is written with a J in many English words borrowed from Romance languages, such as just, justice, and judge.

Dr. Goodword,

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