Are the etymology and status of hosed known, and if so, what are they? For this question, "hosed" is used as at onlineslangdictionary or at urbandictionary. (That is, with meaning broken, messed up, worn out, rather than its probably-older "put hose on" or "attached hose" past-participle meanings.)

My question about the status of the word is whether it indubitably is slang, vs. being a "proper dictionary word". I've always supposed it should be the latter, and imagined that dictionary compilers have left it out by mistake.

Note 1: as a plus, the onlineslangdictionary site tabulates votes on frequency of use and sense of vulgarity of words, and tabulates hundreds of recent tweets containing 'hosed'; perhaps as a minus, it gives a needlessly wordy definition: "utterly and undoubtedly affixiated in a troublesome situation".

Note 2: ngrams.googlelabs.com shows frequency of use of 'hosed' tripling between 1930 and 1940.

Update 1: Among answers given so far, the "police brutality [by] use of water via fire hoses" and/or "being beaten with a rubber hose" explanations seem less compelling than (i) the explanation stemming from hose as "transparent metaphor for the penis" (supported by specialised slang dictionary references) or (ii) the explanation based on SCTV / Mackenzie Brothers / Great White North reference and Wikipedia hoser entry. If it becomes more clear in a few days I'll checkmark an answer. - jiw

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    I would bet the increase has something to do with the increased availablity of rubber hoses. The alternate became more common after "Strange Brew".
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 20:12
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    I can't find any references to "was hosed" with the "broken" meaning before 1988. And then it doesn't mean "broken," it applies to people, and it means "they were screwed." I'm guessing police tactics are the origin (although I would think if it were, the meaning would have dated to the late 1960s or the 1970s). Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 21:01
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    I believe this meaning is slang and probably dates from the early 90s or slightly before. Earliest "is hosed" I found with the meaning was from 1992, most 1994 or later. One instance, possibly related, was a rock climber being "hosed" (italics and quotes in original) in 1991, meaning wholly sore after a day of climbing.
    – mgkrebbs
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 2:47
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    In Google books, I find two uses of "we were hosed" with this meaning in 1987 and 1988. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 3:09
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    Chad and Peter have it. Its a Bob and Doug Mackenzie reference. The skit first appeared in 1980, the album (that's how things went viral back in the 80's) two years later, the movie a year or so after that. That's why all Peter's references start in the 80s.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:53

9 Answers 9


Early on that word of course was used to talk about the action of cleaning something off with a garden hose, but that is not the meaning you are asking about. I do not recall ever hearing that term used with that meaning before the 80's. What happened in the 80's?

Well, SCTV had a very funny (to us USAsians) skit with a couple of stereotypical Canadians called the McKenzie Brothers. They were constantly calling each other "hosers", and talking about how they had "hosed" each other. The skit went the 80's equivalent of viral, with an album (with a couple of singles that got good airplay) and a movie spun off it. The effect was that we (in the USA) got "hoser" added to the language as sort of a good-natured insult, or a way to make fun of Canadian speech.

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Along with it, we borrowed the verb and adverb forms of "hosed" from the same source. Its a much more useful word, so it kinda lost its association with Canadians, and got fully adopted into the USA lexicon.

So where did Canadians come up with these words? That's where personal experience fails me, so I have to rely on online sources:

Like the very similar term hosehead, the term may have referred to farmers of the Canadian prairies, who would siphon gas from farming vehicles with a hose during the Great Depression of the 1930s.[citation needed] The expression has since been converted to the verb 'to hose' as in to trick, deceive, or steal - for example: "That card-shark sure hosed me." Hosed has an additional meaning of becoming drunk - for example: "Let's go out and get hosed." Another possible origin is derived from hockey slang. Before ice resurfacers, the losing team in a hockey game would have to hose down the rink after a game. Thus the term "hoser" being synonymous with "loser".

Personally I prefer the hockey explanation, but that doesn't make it right.

Currently the OED says there is no clear evidence of the term being used prior to its use by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, which to my mind leaves a strong possibility that they may have invented the slang themselves (although they are both Canadian, so they could well just be the first to record an existing slang).

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    Good lord but I remember that. I think it likely that the original derived from "hoosiers" a nickname for people from Indiana but was originally of Scandinavia origin and meaning spread westward up the Scandinavia settlement belt into Canada. Flatten out the vowel with a dose of Scottish brogue (and ethnic antipathy) and "hoosier" becomes "hosers". Just a guess.
    – TechZen
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 4:26
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    Though I have no proof, both the hockey and siphoning explanations seem to me rather unlikely, right up there with "posh" coming from "port outward, starboard homeward" or "Jolly Roger" from "Jolie Rouge". These kinds of plausible explanation rarely seems to be the reality.
    – fool4jesus
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 17:28
  • @fool4jesus - Very much agree. I'd vastly prefer something better than unsourced theories like this. One thing I noticed I didn't mention is that "hose-head" was used synonymously with "hoser" in the original B&D act. Perhaps that's a clue, but I think someone would have to do some serious research to track it down better. In the meantime though, I think the best "patient zero" we have for this as a term is B&D.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 18:07
  • @fool4jesus - Did a bit more research, which seems just as skeptical as the two of us are, so I've added a bit of that to the answer.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 18:26
  • @T.E.D. Interesting. I just did an ngram search and "hoser" has at times been used quite a bit (e.g. from 1939-1944) though until the 90's I didn't see any use with this meaning. That cited usage of "hosed" as "drunk" (which I've never heard personally) would seem to be related. Both "hosed" as "shafted" and "drunk" still seem to me most logically connected to the sexual derivation, since you can apply "f***ed" (possibly with "up") to either meaning.
    – fool4jesus
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 19:16

The etymology of hosed as broken is very similar to that of screwed or fucked.

In short, the metaphor is, unsurprisingly, that of a sexual act. The hose is a transparent metaphor for the penis.

So that in the case of hosed as in that of screwed the semantic path is that of:

  1. Analogy with sexual context.
  2. => Meaning of copulate.
  3. => Meaning of cheat or deceive.
  4. => Meaning of broken.

Several specialised slang dictionaries back this interpretation:

The McGraw Hill Ntc's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions And Colloquial Expression (3rd Edition) for instance has the following entries.

1. About the penis usage

1. n. the penis. (Usually objectionable.)
   He held his hands over his hose and ran for the bedroom.
2. tv. & in. to copulate [with] a woman. (Usually objectionable.)
   You don’t like her, you just want to hose her!
3. tv. to cheat or deceive someone; to lie to someone.
   Don’t try to hose me! I’m onto you! He’s just hosing you! Ignore him.

2. hoser (entry #3 is similar to wanker)

1. n. a good guy or buddy.
   Old Fred is a good hoser. He’ll help.
2. n. a cheater or deceiver.
   You dirty lying hoser!
3. n. a moron; a stupid acting person. (Rude and derogatory.)
   Come here, you hoser. I’ll show you how to do it.
   Bob is such a hoser! He never gets anything right.

3. to hose down as to kill

hose someone down tv. to kill someone. (Underworld. From the image of spraying someone with bullets.)
   Mr. Big told Bruno to hose Max down.
   The thugs tried to hose down the witness.

And the Oxford Dictionary of Contemporary Slang has complementary albeit similar entries:

hose vb American to have sex with. A mainly male vulgarism.
   There must be someone here that I could hose...Better get some more sherry to smooth out my brain.
(S. Clay Wilson cartoon, Head Comix, 1968)
hose monster n American an extremely promiscuous and/or sexually active person. The term, which may be used pejoratively or appreciatively, is particularly applied to heterosexual females. Compare shag-monster
hoser n American
1. a fraud, deceitful person, cheat
2. a promiscuous person, usually female Both senses of the term are found in the vocabulary of high-school and college students. The etymology of the word is not certain, but probably derives from hose as a noun meaning penis and a verb meaning to copulate or screw in the figurative sense of defraud.
  • Odd. The OED actually has this one wrong. "Hoser" as a noun only became popular in the USA after being used repeatedly by SCTV's Mackenzie brothers back in the 80's as a funny stereotypical thing said by Canadians. I believe it is still only used here when making fun of Canadian speech.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:13
  • @T.E.D. Look at the bottom of the hose entry in the OED. Mine says "Draft partial entry December 2004 ▸ N. Amer. slang. The penis. 1928 in A. W. Read Lexical Evid. Folk Epigraphy Western N. Amer. (1935) 59 So now kind friends remember before the water flows please ajust [sic] the distance according to your hose. 1947W. Guthrie in R. Shelton Born to Win (1965) 60 This hose, this dong, dick, this stick and rod and staff of birth. 1978 L. Kramer Faggots 252 Think every name from every stage of your educational development!‥gadget, hammer, hang-down, honker, hose [etc.]. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:31
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    ...so, at least when Americans use it, it generally has nothing to do with sex.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:38
  • Alain, Note how old all those references are (except for the '70s ones, which IMHO are self-explained, not a common usage of the word). I'm sorry, but they have this one wrong. It happens on occasion. Still, I'm as surprised by it as you.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:40
  • @T.E.D. The reason why these are old citations is simply that the whole list wouldn't fit in an EL&U comment. The last one is dated 1999. Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 20:00

There was a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch in the late 70s with Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin as the "Wild and Crazy" Czechoslovakian brothers. In one of those sketches, Garrett Morris told them "You've been hosed." To which Martin replies "Hosed? Count me in!" a reference to the sexual meaning. But Morris explained "No, hosed! tricked! I mean they stood you up, man!" I think this slightly predated the "Great White North" routine.

In the 1950s, American Fighter pilots used the term to mean shooting at. As in, "Hose him!" See Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War. A fascinating book, by the way. In the 1960s he was promoted to the Pentagon, and was known for often using the term to mean to get the upper hand over a rival. Close to the modern meaning.

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    These are some interesting details, but they don't really answer the question.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 21:35

If your earliest memories of police brutality are the use of water via fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators, you would likely guess that as the origin.

But I'm guessing that being beaten with a rubber hose (supposedly to not leave bruises, like with a baton), again by police, is more likely the origin, and would explain the term predating the civil rights marches.

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    But the term doesn't predate the civil rights marches ... the first use anybody has found is 1988. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 3:11
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    Then what is "ngrams.googlelabs.com shows frequency of use of 'hosed' tripling between 1930 and 1940" using as data? Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 13:56
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    That would be the word hosed meaning washing something down with a hose. That's not the meaning the OP is asking about. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 14:53
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    Not a bad guess, but this isn't it.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:50

I think you might be ignoring the fact that the penis reference from the 20's, and the general referring to the penis as a hose led to it becoming a euphemism for "f**king". If you used that hose to have sex with it, then you would be hosing someone. Extend all the meanings of "f**king" "getting f**ked" "getting screwed" etc. and hosing, getting hosed, hoser and so on. Tie all of the references together and there you go, eh?


In my shop the system was first "hosed" and then some bright guy made the "host operating system error detected" comment. Hosed was in use around Chicago about/prior(?) to the SCTV skits in the mid-70s.

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    Apparently the Bob and Doug McKenzie segments first appeared in 1980, so it would be good to see some references supporting your assertion that it was an American usage several years before what most people seem to think was a Canadian usage took off. Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 23:19

The 1924 Mack Sennett comedy "Lizzies of the Field" shows a sign in an auto garage offering steam cleaning, except "Fords are hosed" http://moviessilently.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/lizzies-of-the-field-1924-mack-sennett-billy-bevan-silent-movie-image-06.jpg

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    Could you explain further why you think the sign means "Fords are broken" rather than "Fords are cleaned with a hose"? Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 15:57

I would have thought hosed was simply the past of passive participle of hose. Apart from the old meaning of being clothed, I would have thought it would also mean being sprayed by water from a hosepipe, and this is what led to the broken meaning.

Incidentally Google ngrams has hosing rising in popularity with hosed in the 1940s.

  • Some of those usages in the 40's could have had to do with nylon pantyhose, and thus have nothing to do with the meaning in the OQ.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:15
  • ...or as Peter Shor mentions in another comment, the act of having "hosed something down", which is (probably) a different meaning entirely.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 15:45

HOSED means Host Operating System Error Detected.

Before Windows this was the same as the blue screen of death.

If your system was HOSED, it was halted with no recovery.

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    Some references would be good... Commented May 8, 2014 at 4:46
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    I've been programming since the mid 70's, and this term rings no bell whatsoever to me. Google can't find it either. "Before Windows" makes no sense, as there were oodles of different platforms and OS'es. You could mean MS-DOS, but I'm pretty sure DOS had no such error.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 15:17

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