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See also: Tonk and tönk




Etymology 1Edit

Origins are unknown, but definitely predate the use of metal flashlights, contrary to the most quoted description of origin.

It is probable that the origin relates to Chinese immigration, as the first law to restrict immigration from a particular country was enacted in 1882 to limit the numbers of Chinese coming to the United States. It is said that many of the illegal immigrants made their way to the US via the Gulf of Tonkin area of what is now Vietnam. It is also possible that the term is related to the Chinese "tong" mob.


tonk (plural tonks)

  1. (slang, chiefly US) An illegal immigrant of any country.
    • 1990: United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary, Confirmation Hearings on Federal Appointments: Hearings Before the Committee - An agent, Larry Moy, when asked to define the derivation of the term “tonk,” replied: “'s the sound of flashlight hitting somebody's head, tonk". [This "derivation" is incorrect - see Etymology]
    • 1998: Cirenio Rodriguez & Enrique T Trueba, Leadership, education and political action, in Ethnic Identity and Power: Cultural Contexts of Political Action in School and Society - "Catch as many tonks as you guys can. Safely. An alien is not worth busting a leg."
    • 2005: EMF (poster on The QandO Blog in response to Illegal immigration made easy, read at [1] on 27 May 2006) - The pissed off Arizona land owner who snipes the tonks with a high powered rifle.

Etymology 2Edit


tonk (plural tonks)

  1. (slang) An item of value, or of perceived value, especially for sale.
    How much tonk have we got to shift?

Etymology 3Edit

Alternative formsEdit


tonk (uncountable)

  1. A matching card game, combining features of knock rummy and conquian.

Etymology 4Edit



tonk (third-person singular simple present tonks, present participle tonking, simple past and past participle tonked)

  1. (colloquial, transitive) To knock or strike (a ball) so that it flies through the air.
    • 2012, Iain Macintosh, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cricket But Were Too Afraid to Ask
      Then your dad would step up and spend 45 minutes repeatedly tonking the ball over the shower block []
    • 2014, Makarand Waingankar, Guts & Glory
      Moments later, Sehwag tonked the ball and it travelled some distance.