(I think this "blank" moment of mine is what is called in AmEng a brain fart, so be it)

Isn't ‘a gonner/gonna’ slang for a person who is about to die? It's said in situations where, potentially, someone risks getting themselves killed. Maybe children also use it when play acting. I'm sure there must be something similar but the dictionary entries tell me that ‘gonna’ is a contraction of "going to" and ‘gonner’ is not listed in The Free Dictionary.

For example:

If you do that (a dangerous thing) you're a gonner

I presume a gonna or a gonner (or something similar) is short for “a person who is going to die”.

  • 1
    to add to NVZ's answer, I've never heard goner pronounced as ˈɡônə,ˈɡənə (gonna) in New York, California, DC or on TV. – CDM Feb 1 '16 at 10:49
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    It's however you pronounce "gone" plus "er." No more and no less. – Ricky Feb 1 '16 at 10:54
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    In my experience "goner" refers to some person or thing that has (or will very soon) ceased to function. Very often used in a figurative or hyperbolic sense. Not necessarily a person, and not implying death -- an employee may be a "goner" if he's targeted for a layoff, eg, and one might refer to a badly damaged bike tire as a "goner", since it can't be repaired. I've never heard "gonna", the contraction of "going to", used in this sense, though certainly someone might mispronounce "goner" (or someone else might mis-hear it) such that it sounds like "gonna". – Hot Licks Feb 1 '16 at 13:22
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    In the South East UK at least - "goner" refers to some person or thing that has (or will very soon) ceased to function as Hot Licks said, while "gonna" is the contraction - as in "I'm gonna do something that'll make me a goner" – Darren Bartrup-Cook Feb 1 '16 at 13:46
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    I kind of chuckle whenever I read 'brain fart' because that's what the original layman's term for cerebral infarction devolved into... I'm sure someone heard 'brain farc' and thought they heard 'brain fart' instead. When I worked in a hospital as a unit coordinator some 20 years ago, the nurses there used to throw around the phrase 'brain farc' with the same meaning as 'brain fart' today. – Tim Ward Feb 1 '16 at 14:56

Gonner is a rare spelling variant of goner.


TFD n. slang One that is ruined or doomed.
"I'm a goner if this plan doesn't work"

M-W n. someone or something that is going to die or that can no longer be used
"This old computer is a goner. We'll have to get a new one. "

Wiktionary etymology: gone +‎ -er

  • Oh, a spelling mistake! One "n" at least I know I'm not losing my mind :) Thank you so much. – Mari-Lou A Feb 1 '16 at 10:56
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    Also, it's sometimes pronounced more like "gonna" in the more goombah-infested parts of the US, which may be the source of some of your original confusion. "He's a gohnna!" – mxyzplk Feb 1 '16 at 23:50
  • @mxyzplk you mean my confusion, NVZ provided the correct answer almost immediately (in just over six minutes). P.S Which parts of the US are "goombah"? Is it the east coast? – Mari-Lou A Feb 2 '16 at 14:12
  • With no disrespect to Josh's fine answer, but I'm accepting yours simply because you were the first to post the correct spelling and explanation. – Mari-Lou A Feb 2 '16 at 15:23

It is spelled with one 'n' because it comes from "gone" (not from "gonna" - going to) as in earlier expressions like gone goose or gone coon.

Goner (n.):

  • "something dead or about to die, person past recovery, one who is done for in any way," 1836, American English colloquial, from gone + -er (1). From earlier expressions such as gone goose (1830), gone coon, etc. (Etynomline)
  • According to Ngram the double n variant is much less common but probably as old as goner.
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    Thanks for the etymological info, so the word goner is not derived from "going to die" but from gone. You live and learn something new every day. – Mari-Lou A Feb 1 '16 at 14:48
  • Coon as in racoon, I guess. But nowadays isn't it a highly offensive term? – Mari-Lou A Feb 1 '16 at 15:28
  • Possibly the extra n was because of the short o? Even though it's already present in gone... – corsiKa Feb 1 '16 at 15:31
  • @Mari-LouA That depends. These days it's highly offensive because it's generally reserved as a racial epitaph targeted at blacks. Historically, it's no different than "you dirty rat". – corsiKa Feb 1 '16 at 15:33
  • I think a more likely root is from "go under". Etymonline says that first appears in 1848, but it was a common among western US mountain men in the 1820's and 30's to say someone had "gone under" as a way of saying they had died. It may have been common slang among general rural populations in the US. It is a small jump from "gone under" to "goner". – hatchet - done with SOverflow Feb 1 '16 at 18:46

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