What is the meaning of “hooplehead”?

The term “hooplehead” is an insult that refers to someone uneducated or dumb. It also refers to people who made hoops around wooden barrels.

Origin of the word Hooplehead

The word hooplehead has become more popular than ever due to the HBO show Deadwood. Ian McShane’s character, Al Swearengen, frequently uses the term to insult people that he considers dumb. But what exactly does the word mean, and where did it come from?

The original term referred to those who made the metal hoops around wooden barrels. The job required very little skill. Because the job was so simple, the word “hooplehead” became synonymous with unskilled workers.

Unskilled workers are often connected with a lack of education and are considered dumb by the general public. Hoopleheads thus became deemed to be uninformed or idiots.

When the character, Al Swearengen, uses the word in Deadwood, it is intended to be derogatory and dismissive.

Definition of the word Hooplehead

The word hoople dates back to 1928. While some use it to refer to a child’s hoop to play with, it generally is an insult.

The word hoople refers to an individual who comes from an unsophisticated or rural background and community. Usually, the term denotes a person who is irresponsible and not good at understanding things. A fool, or foolish person, is a hoople.

The word head gets added to it to emphasize the lack of understanding, thus completing the insult.

Examples of Hoopleheads

Homer Simpson is a great example of a famous hooplehead. The show is full of dumb things Homer does, showcasing his stupidity and simplicity.

Another example of hoopleheads can be from the classic TV show Green Acres. While many characters in this show fit the definition, the top contenders are Alf and Ralph Monroe. The siblings are constantly showing their lack of skill and simplicity as they attempt to fix up the Douglases’ bedroom throughout the show’s four seasons.

Another example of a hooplehead is Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls. While still endearing, Rose constantly misunderstands things and has trouble keeping up. Her hooplehead-ness is part of why many fans loved her throughout the show.


The definition of a hooplehead is someone who is considered dumb or unskillful. The term originated from barrel hoop makers, a job that historically did not require a lot of skill but has grown to encompass general idiots and uneducated, simple people.