honking adj. very large; whopping; as an intensifier or in an adverbial role, very. Editorial Note: It is unclear in the 1974 citation whether the cars had honking horns or were seen as large compared to the European automobiles. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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  1. Ben Zimmer says:

    I always assumed there was a connection to honker meaning ‘very large nose’. I see enough Googlehits for “big honkin(g) nose” to suggest that others have made the same connection.

  2. Ben Zimmer says:

    Here’s another early automotive cite — since “(big) honking” is used in reference to engines, it’s unlikely that it has anything to do with honking horns.

    1973 Road Test (Mar.) “Changing Modes” in Charger Muscle Portfolio 1966-1974 (1995) p. 115: The engines which powered these cars were big honking monsters with names like the 426 hemi.

  3. Thanks, Ben. That last cite is great.

    I acknowledge the fact that people make the connection to honker, but so far there’s no evidence that “honking” was first used to describe noses.

  4. For fans of sci-fi and/or MacGuyver, “big honkin’ space-gun” was a term frequently used by former “Stargate SG-1” lead, Col. Jack O’Neill, played by Richard Dean Anderson.

  5. Don Haines says:

    Reference to honking.  This was used to refer to the big bore engined cars which in racing trip would often actually shake the ground.  So honking was being used by me as an adjative describing how awesome these cars were, especially compared to the small engined European cars.

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