What Is a "Mook" and Why Are Trump Supporters Hurling the Name at Robert DeNiro?

Robert DeNiro warned the people of New York City about the danger's of Trump's return to office. Some citizens bit back.

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

May 29 2024, Published 10:56 a.m. ET

(l-r) Composite photo of Robert DeNiro and Donald Trump
Source: Getty Images/Collins Dictionary

Many outside of New York City know the area for its many slang words. In fact, some NYC slang phrases (or other such adjacent terms) have become so prolific that actual New Yorkers may despise you for using them in the first place and regard them as stereotypes. You might be forgiven if you mistook certain words for phrases originating in the Big Apple, even if they have a much broader overall appeal. That said, the term "mook" has been making the rounds on the streets of Manhattan recently.

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People are catching wind of the offensive term after several alt-right proponents hurled the insult at award-winning actor and New York City native Robert DeNiro in late May 2024. Although he was speaking out against Donald Trump at the time, some of the former president's supporters didn't take kindly to DeNiro's rhetoric and bit back with the not-so-clever retort of simply calling the beloved actor a mook. Now folks are wondering what this "New York" phrase means. Let's break it down.

Robert DeNiro is called a mook while being escorted away from a news conference
Source: Getty Images
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"Mook" isn't exclusively a New York term.

Collins Dictionary very explicitly defines "mook" as "a person regarded with contempt, especially a foolish person." That's really it. But for some reason, people have been regarding it as a newfangled bit of slang the likes of which only New York City can provide.

Although New Yorkers tend to use the term a lot to insult someone, it's a slang term that has existed for ages. Some sources even date the term back to the 1930s.

However, the term has had a fluid definition for the most part. Some people regard it in a similar vein as the "f word" often used against the LGBTQ+ community, even though one is clearly more deserving of censorship than the other.

One redditor on the r/etymology subreddit likened the term as a synonym for "henchman" or "minion." They even suggested that the word came from the Cantonese term for wooden training dummies, further corroborating its use as a general insult.

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Whatever the true meaning is to people, it's pretty universally accepted that "mook" is meant to insult someone in any context. By that measure, Trump supporters were definitely giving DeNiro a hard time by calling him that.

Robert DeNiro in Manhattan
Source: Getty Images
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Robert DeNiro was verbally assaulted by Trump supporters when they called him a mook.

According to a report by KoiMoi, the actor was verbally assaulted by Trump supporters outside of the Manhattan courtroom amid Donald Trump's hush money trial. At the time, DeNiro was giving a speech during a news conference in which he warned of the dangers that the United States would face should the indicted former president be re-elected. Unfortunately, he was met with alt-right hecklers who called him, among other things, a mook.

DeNiro was then escorted back to his car, with one New Yorker in a MAGA hat calling him a mook the entire time. As of this writing, it seems that Trump-supporting New Yorkers have added one new word to their repertoire of poor interactions, using it constantly in social media posts made at DeNiro's expense.

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