Definition of honky-tonk in English:



  • 1North American informal A cheap or disreputable bar, club, or dance hall.

    ‘a neighbourhood of honky-tonks and decaying apartment buildings’
    • ‘Here, you can get a taste of Memphis nightlife, where the blues continues to play in classic clubs and honky-tonks.’
    • ‘As someone who has sometimes wondered about her own capacity to drink herself to death, I was also intrigued by the shots of men and women inside honky-tonks and other bars, sometimes at after-show functions.’
    • ‘To soak up a little of the famous Nashville atmosphere, head for the honky-tonks in Downtown, a row of rough-and-ready bars all playing covers of your favourite country songs.’
    • ‘I suspect he preferred the novelty of being a black man who sang like Elvis in mostly white honky-tonks to being a nearly blind visitor to the king of rock 'n' roll's court.’
    • ‘Migrants from the Texas and Oklahoma dustbowls in the 1930s kept their music alive in the honky-tonks and juke joints of California's San Joachim Valley.’
    • ‘Nashville's downtown honky-tonks have helped launch the careers of such greats as Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.’
    • ‘I used to do, you know, 260 days a year on the road doing fairs and festivals and honky-tonks and symphony dates and whatever.’
    • ‘Hightower writes, ‘I've been in Oklahoma honky-tonks, Portland brew pubs, Boston neighborhood bars, Napa Valley wine bars - but I've never been in a place like the O2 Spa Bar in Toronto, Canada.’’
    • ‘There's no sign officials will try to remove the forbidden music from the honky-tonks where it first emerged.’
    • ‘The author vividly recreates the nature of the Phenix City honky-tonks and brothels and the recurrent violence so often directed against the soldiers of Fort Benning, Georgia.’
    • ‘At 16, Anneth compulsively sneaks out at night to flirt and drink at honky-tonks, dancing to the latest songs by Elvis, Patsy Cline, and Sam Cooke.’
    • ‘It is more of a honky-tonk than a restaurant but it is boasting an oyster bar.’
    • ‘A night in a honky-tonk ensues, during which Henry and Carol dance the night away as Wayne glowers and fumes on the sidelines; he's actually jealous of this old guy out there with his young wife.’
    • ‘There's a scene at a honky-tonk in which Melanie lays into all her old friends in a way that's vicious and very real.’
    • ‘It's a great honky-tonk, with live Texas-style country music most nights of the week.’
    • ‘But they sit around like a bunch of jukeboxes in a private honky-tonk, playing the same sad country songs.’
    establishment, restaurant, bar, club, nightclub
    1. 1.1as modifier Squalid and disreputable.
      ‘a honky-tonk beach resort’
      • ‘I'd hope to see the site redeveloped in a tasteful way and not in a honky-tonk fashion.’
      • ‘The town is but a decayed, honky-tonk version of the company town, with everything and everybody in it owned by Mr. Potter, the rapacious banker (and the town itself is, of course, Pottersville).’
  • 2informal mass noun, often as modifier Ragtime piano music.

    ‘honky-tonk piano’
    • ‘There is music for everyone in this city - traditional jazz, honky-tonk piano, Cajun, zydeco, rhythm and blues, gospel, rock, and country.’
    • ‘But when the foursome kept playing ragtime and honky-tonk music into the early hours the council decided to pull the plug.’
    • ‘The pianist had grand piano, harmonium, honky-tonk piano and celeste, and the percussionist had a range of tuned and untuned percussion.’
    • ‘It manages to stay above the pack thanks to Lovett's laconic drawl and some fine honky-tonk piano.’
    • ‘The songs have a bit of a barroom sound, and there are a few blues numbers, and even one honky-tonk piano song.’
    • ‘As the honky-tonk piano of Elliott Smith's ‘A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free’ fades into silence, there's one moment from this compilation that stays with you.’
    • ‘‘My dad was a great pianist and he was always playing honky-tonk and jazz music, so I grew up with it,’ he said.’
    • ‘Adam had gone into the small apartment at the back of the white clapboard house, which was pretty quiet, but up front, the sound of a honky-tonk piano tried to rise above talk and laughter.’
    • ‘And I would fall asleep lying on the floor of my room with my pillow and my blanket, because he had an old honky-tonk piano that he'd play just all night long.’
    • ‘The music is the best thing about the film, which includes spirituals, work songs, a lullaby, and a great sequence in a saloon with honky-tonk jazz.’


Late 19th century of unknown origin.