- A failed or incompetent (second-rate) athlete, usually a boxer. Often implies a stereotypically big and stupid gorilla.
- A person (usually from a rural area) with many of the same characteristics: crude, clumsy, slow-witted. Synonyms: oaf, lout, boob, slob, lug.
Coined sometime in the early 20th century as a mostly boxing-specific term. Made popular in the late 1920s and early 1930s by Ham Fisher's comic strip Joe Palooka, Joe incidentally being both a prizefighter and the epitome of palookaness. The strip ran for over 50 years and produced numerous b-movies between the 1930s and the 1950s, some of them starring Jimmy Durante or Shemp Howard as Joe's manager Knobby Walsh.
Also see: palookaville