Printable Version
Pronunciation: klingk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, verb

Meaning: 1. A sharp, high-pitched metallic sound. 2. (Slang) Jail (gaol), hoosegow, slammer, the joint.

Notes: This word may be used as a verb, too: "They clinked glasses before drinking." The verb went into the making of a noun ending on -er with several meanings. Clinker may refer to a type of brick, wrong note in music, an error in baseball, or a dud, boner, or flop anywhere else. In the US, clinkers are the crunchy ashes from a coal-fired furnace.

In Play: This word refers originally to a sound: "Jason Raneboze was a dull, droopy-eyed lad who lifted his eyelids only at the clink of ice in a whiskey glass." In a situation permitting slang, though, it might be taken as a synonym for jail: "Jason was arrested for DUI many times and occasionally spent the night in the local clink."

Word History: Criminals know jail as a place where they slam the steel-barred door and lock you in with a clinking sound. That's how two of the slang words for "jail", clink and slammer, came to be. Clink is onomatopoetic, but it has wandered around in the Germanic languages, as German klingen "ring", Dutch klinken "clink" and klingen "to ring", Swedish klinga and Danish klinge "to sound, ring" indicate. The onomatopoetic (echoic) origin is supported by clank, which indicates a deeper ringing sound, and clunk, referring to a deep, dull metallic sound. (We owe our gratitude today to Rob Towart for spotting the interesting possibilities in this Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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