Define ‘punk’

Dear Dictionary Compilers,

Please will you reconsider the definitions that you use for the word punk in future editions?

Currently, many of your entries look like this:

Punk rock was a loud, aggressive style of music originating in the late 1970s.

Punk as a single word may indicate that music, or a person who enjoys that music.

However, there are different aspects to the concept punk and we have consulted our followers on Twitter to see if they agree. Thank you to everyone who contributed a definition, some of which we have included in this post.

Punk is a way of behaving that values empowerment, participation and change. It is expressed creatively through popular art forms: music, fashion, zines and social media.


Punk Values

  • Anyone can do it
  • Mix it up
  • Be creative
  • Do-It-Yourself

Punk Ideas

  • Challenge the system
  • Be loud
  • Make a community
  • Speak your truth

Punk activity – there are no rules

  • Songs can be loud, fast, passionate, shouty … or not
  • Fashion can be outrageous, home-made, challenging, eye-catching … or not
  • Dancing can be frenetic, rucking, pogoing, aggressive … or not
  • Writing can be bold, questioning, political, smart-arsed … or not
  • Speech can be offensive, piss-taking, defiant, critical …. Or not

How punkgirldiaries followers defined punk:


  • Questioning everything….doing whatever you like cuz you don’t care whether you’re liked
  • Punk is a state of mind, it’s anti establishment, it’s questioning everything. It’s creative, it’s DIY, it’s empowerment, ideas and values.


  • Anything that can’t be defined; anything that confounds, confronts, upsets and amplifies. 
  • Resist anyone and anything that tries to define you; make your own cool. 
  • Punk is an attitude, it’s not putting up with bullsh*t.
  • Punk is defying limitations.
  • Fuck You
  • Punk is a principled defiance of definition.
  • Punk is a movement rooted in mindset, attitude, fashion, and music against an oppressive and uncaring government. Punk has also influenced other musical movements and mainstream media.
  • Punk is not a fashion is a subculture of music, we express our sadness, happiness or anger, Punk is more like a way of life, in my opinion, Punk music has been my way of fighting against those who oppose me and for it I dedicate myself making Punk music making Punk more alive!!!!


  • Punk is inclusive not exclusive, it’s for anyone, regardless of sex, colour, race or ability.
  • Punk is unbiased. We make no judgement, we see no race, no religion, no gender. We respect each other for who you truly are and for your love in music
  • Music and fashion movement originating in late seventies Britain with the key features of equality of opportunity to participate and examining outdated social norms.
  • The feelings of the street and the people.


  • A disruptive concept most obvious in fashion and music that challenged economic and cultural norms. The foundation of a can-do attitude now embraced in all aspects of modern life. 
  • Punk is kids having a different opinion and being confident enough to express it. LOUDLY!
  • Not conforming to the mainstream, displayed in a variety of ways, such as through a particular style of clothing, hairstyle or taste in music.
  • Punk – an act outside of the mainstream cultural, political and economic schools of thought in order to remain true to a personal ethical stance.
  • Punk, a highly accessible style of music, that shuns the excesses and
    glamour of mainstream rock music.
  • An attitude in rock music, art, or lifestyle that fuels creativity outside the mainstream.
  • Punk – freedom to pogo, sing any style you want to, write any lyric you want to, be who you want to be…
  • A bit confusing. But the re-birth of music?
  • For me, punk is “pop with an attitude”, as that sums up why I love punk and really can not listen to “heavy rock”.  A punk song’s core is the easy-to-catch and singalong melody, while the “heavy rock” is mostly about luring the listener into basic patterns of (guitar) noise.

Do It Yourself

  • Punk is a way of life defined by doing your own thing , your own way. 
  • DIY lifestyle and manifesto. Creative individuals/communities with a passion for art & positive change
  • Punk: don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do; do it yourself, now!
  • Innovation powered by problems but with no need to solve them
  • Punk is doing it for yourselves. Wearing whatever you want and making the music you want
  • Do It Yourself, for yourself and nobody else.  If people take notice its a bonus!
  • Punk is the rise of the do-it-yourself aesthetic that the stadium-rock excesses of the early seventies made necessary.

16e898b74be8d536f29833906da3876aPunkgirls may simply be girls and young women who like punk music. But punkgirldiaries has found that many women who grew up in the punk and post-punk era 1976 – 1984 have kept the values and attitudes of punk throughout their lives, and the term punkgirl may also indicate an older woman with punk attitude.

So, dictionary compilers, please can we have a conversation about what “punk” really means? About how complex and far reaching it can be, and how its ethics and influence have impacted its followers and the wider culture. It’s important. Thank-you.

Tell us what you think! Did you like the post? Do you agree? Do you have some information or experience to share? Please let us know by commenting!

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