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Dude is an American English slang term[1] for an individual. It typically applies to males, although the word can encompass any gender.

Dude is an old term, recognized by multiple generations although potentially with slightly different meanings.[2] From the 1870s to the 1960s, dude primarily meant a person who dressed in an extremely fashionable manner (a dandy) or a citified person who was visiting a rural location but stuck out (a city slicker). In the 1960s, dude evolved to mean any male person, a meaning that slipped into mainstream American slang in the 1970s. Current slang retains at least some use of all three of these common meanings.


Evander Berry Wall, a New York socialite, was dubbed "King of the Dudes." He is pictured (1888) in the New York American newspaper at the time of the "battle of the Dudes."[3][4]

The word may have derived from the Scottish term for clothes, duddies.[5] The term "dude" was first used in print in 1876, in Putnam's Magazine, to mock how a woman was dressed (as a "dud"/dude).[5] The use of the word "dudde" for clothing in English goes as far back 1567.[6]

In the popular press of the 1880s and 1890s, "dude" was a new word for "dandy" – an extremely well-dressed male, a man who paid particular importance to how he appeared. The café society and Bright Young Things of the late 1800s and early 1900s were populated with dudes. Young men of leisure vied to show off their wardrobes. The best known of this type is probably Evander Berry Wall, who was dubbed "King of the Dudes" in 1880s New York and maintained a reputation for sartorial splendor all his life. This version of the word is still in occasional use in American slang, as in the phrase "all duded up" for getting dressed in fancy clothes.[7]

The word was used to refer to Easterners and referred to a man with "store bought clothes". The word "dude" derived from the Spanish phrase “lo dudo” meaning "doubtful".[8][better source needed] The word was used by cowboys to unfavorably refer to the city dwellers.[9]

A variation of this was a "well-dressed man who is unfamiliar with life outside a large city." In The Home and Farm Manual (1883), author Jonathan Periam used the term "dude" several times to denote an ill-bred and ignorant, but ostentatious, man from the city.[citation needed]

The implication of an individual who is unfamiliar with the demands of life outside of urban settings gave rise to the definition of dude as a city slicker, or "an Easterner in the [United States] West".[1] Thus "dude" was used to describe the wealthy men of the expansion of the United States during the 19th century by ranch-and-homestead-bound settlers of the American Old West. This use is reflected in the dude ranch, a guest ranch catering to urbanites seeking more rural experiences. Dude ranches began to appear in the American West in the early 20th century, for wealthy Easterners who came to experience the "cowboy life." The implicit contrast is with those persons accustomed to a given frontier, agricultural, mining, or other rural setting. This usage of "dude" was still in use in the 1950s in America, as a word for a tourist — of either gender — who attempts to dress like the local culture but fails.[10] An inverse of these uses of "dude" would be the term "redneck," a contemporary American colloquialism referring to poor farmers and uneducated persons, which itself became pejorative, and is also still in use.[11][12][13]

The term was also used as a job description, such as "bush hook dude" as a position on a railroad in the 1880s. For an example, see the Stampede Tunnel.[citation needed]

In the early 1960s, dude became prominent in surfer culture as a synonym of guy or fella. The female equivalent was "dudette" or "dudess," but these have both fallen into disuse, and "dude" is now also used as a unisex term. This more general meaning of "dude" started creeping into the mainstream in the mid-1970s. "Dude," particularly in surfer and “bro” culture,[citation needed] is[when?] generally used informally to address someone (“Dude, I’m glad you finally called”) or refer to another person (“That dude is stealing my car”).[14]

In popular culture

  • 1883 – A political cartoon of Chester A. Arthur pictures the refined, well-dressed President, with the caption, "According to your cloth you've cut your coat, O Dude of all the White House residents; We trust that will help you with the vote, When next we go nominating Presidents."
  • 1889 – Andy a dude and a chorus of dudes in the opera Leo, the Royal Cadet by Oscar Ferdinand Telgmann sing We are the Dudes: "We are the dudes you read about in all the papers Social Etudes, we captivate all hearts by our capers, Bai Gawge! Once every week the Bank pays each and all of us two dollars; But, by cold cheek we sport the latest thing in coats and collars, Bai Gawge! Weep ye, en masse! We're suffering most excruciating pain; For ah! alas! The Prince of Wales has ceased to carry a cane, Bai Gawge! Till we learn whether His Highness orders that the cane shall go; Each with a feather we promenade the city streets just so, Bai Gawge!"[15]
  • 1889 – A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain comments on how commoners in Medieval Britain worshiped nobility and title without question, for the sake only of a meaningless title: "...and the best of English commoners was still content to see his inferiors impudently continuing to hold a number of positions, such as lordships and the throne, to which the grotesque laws of his country did not allow him to aspire; in fact, he was even able to persuade himself that he was proud of it. It seems to show that there isn't anything you can't stand, if you are only born and bred to it. Of course that taint, that reverence for rank and title, had been in our American blood, too – I know that; but when I left America it had disappeared – at least to all intents and purposes. The remnant of it was restricted to the dudes and dudesses. When a disease has worked its way down to that level, it may fairly be said to be out of the system."
  • 1959 – Howard Hawks's film Rio Bravo has Dean Martin as "Dude," the drunk deputy to John Wayne.
  • 1969 - In the film Easy Rider, Billy (Dennis Hopper) speculates that George (Jack Nicholson) "must be some important dude". When George asks what the word "dude" means, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) tells him "dude means, uh, nice guy, dude means regular sort of person".
  • 1972 – Mott the Hoople releases their hit album, All the Young Dudes, named after the title cut, which was written for the band by David Bowie.
  • 1973 – The premiere of Dude, a musical by Galt MacDermot.
  • 1974 – Steely Dan releases their album Pretzel Logic, which features the song "Any Major Dude Will Tell You"
  • 1981 – Quincy Jones releases his album The Dude
  • 1985 – Less Than Zero (a novel by Bret Easton Ellis) includes the first published usage of the now-common phrase, "No way, dude!", and the first mainstream display of "dude" having crossed the gender barrier[original research?]. In a noteworthy scene, a young woman tells her mother, "No way, dude."
  • 1987 – Aerosmith release a song called "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)"
  • 1989 – Hey Dude premieres on Nickelodeon; it will go on to run for three years. The cast of this teenage sitcom set on a dude ranch included Christine Taylor.
  • 1989 – In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, in the future, the world's slogan is "Be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES!".
  • 1990 – In Back to the Future Part III, set in 1885, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen frequently calls Marty McFly "Dude" as it is apparent from his attire and demeanor he is not a frontiersman.
  • 1991 - Scatterbrain release a song called "Don't Call Me Dude", which became a Top 20 pop single in Australia.
  • 1996 – Britpop band Kula Shaker title the first track of their album K "Hey, Dude".
  • 1997 – Less than Jake's song "We're all Dudes" from the soundtrack to the movie Good Burger
  • 1997 – Blink-182 release an album called Dude Ranch.
  • 1998 – BASEketball, featuring Trey Parker and Matt Stone as two young men who, at one point in the film, have an argument composed entirely of the word "dude", with their inflections conveying the meaning of each instance of the word
  • 1998 – The Big Lebowski, a film by Joel and Ethan Coen, features Jeff Bridges as "The Dude" ("or His Dudeness, or Duder, or, you know, El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing"), an aging hippie/beach bum, who turns 'dude' into a philosophy. The film's narrator, an old-fashioned cowboy played by Sam Elliott, insinuates that he considers the term 'dude' in its traditional sense, meaning a pretentious city-slicker type, rather than in its more contemporary sense.[original research?]
  • 2000 – Dude, Where's My Car?, a comedy film directed by Danny Leiner, starring Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott
  • 2001 – "Dude, you're gettin' a Dell!", an advertising campaign by Dell Computer Corporation, starring Ben Curtis as "Steven the Dell Dude"
  • 2003 - Dude, Where's My Country?, a book by Michael Moore dealing with corporate and political events in the United States.
  • 2003 - "Dude, Where's My Ranch?," an episode of the animated sitcom The Simpsons set on a dude ranch, airs on Fox TV.
  • 2003 - The green sea turtle characters Crush (father) and Squirt (son) in the movie Finding Nemo habitually speak in California English, using the "dude" term repeatedly in their dialogue.
  • 2005 - Dudeism, a religion inspired by The Big Lebowski, was founded to promote a philosophy congruent with the ethos implicit in the modern form of the word "Dude."
  • 2008 – Bud Light airs an advertising campaign in which the dialogue consists entirely of different inflections of "Dude!" and does not mention the product by name.[16] It was a followup to their near-identical and more widely noted 1999–2002 "Whassup?" campaign.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Dude, Def. 2 – The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 8 May 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Winona Bullard, Shirley Johnson, Jerkeshea Morris, Kelly Fox, Cassie Howell. "Slang". <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Bryk, William (June 22, 2005). "King of the Dudes". The New York Sun. Retrieved 2008-11-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Jeffers, Harry Paul (2005). Diamond Jim Brady: Prince of the Gilded Age, p.45. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0-471-39102-6
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mapes Dodge, Mary (May–October 1901). St. Nicholas: an Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks. XXVIII. Scribner & Co. p. 734. Retrieved 15 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Meriam Webster's Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dud
  7. "duded up", McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2002, retrieved 10 October 2012<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Y Gilbert, Donald Chavez. "Origins Of The first American Cowboys Chapter 11" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Ltd, Not Panicking. "h2g2 - The Word 'Dude' - Edited Entry". h2g2.com. Retrieved 2015-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  11. Harold Wentworth, and Stuart Berg Flexner, Dictionary of American Slang (1975) p. 424.
  12. "Redneck". Dictionary.com.
  13. Barbara Ann Kipfer and Robert L. Chapman, American Slang (2008) p. 404
  14. Howell, Cassie. "Examples of Slang". Retrieved 10 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Oscar Telgmann Leo, the Royal Cadet Kingston, Ontario Archive.org
  16. Swansburg, John (28 January 2008). "Dude! How great are those new Bud Light ads?". Slate.com. Retrieved 10 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links