AskDefine | Define pinko

Dictionary Definition

pinko n : emotionally charged terms used to refer to extreme radicals or revolutionaries [syn: Bolshevik, Marxist, red, bolshie] [also: pinkoes (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary




From the term red, affiliated with communism, as pink is a lighter, more diluted form. (1936)


  1. A term typically used by right-wingers to describe socialists who were not quite communist.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Pinko is a derogatory term for a person regarded as sympathetic to Communism, though not necessarily a Communist Party member. The term has its origins in the notion that pink is a lighter shade of red, the color associated with communism; thus pink could be thought of as a "lighter form of communism" promoted by mere supporters of socialism who weren't, themselves, "card-carrying" communists.



The word pinko was coined by Time magazine in 1926 as a variant on the noun and adjective pink, which had been used along with parlor pink since the beginning of the 20th century to refer to those of leftish sympathies, usually with an implication of "effeteness". In the 1920s, for example, a Wall Street Journal editorial described supporters of the progressive politician Robert La Follette as “visionaries, ne’er do wells, parlor pinks, reds, hyphenates [Americans with divided allegiance], soft handed agriculturalists and working men who have never seen a shovel.”
Pinko and pink were widely used during the Cold War to label individuals accused of supporting the Soviet Union, including many supporters of ex-vice president Henry Wallace's 1948 U.S. presidential campaign with the Progressive Party. The word was predominantly used in the United States, where opposition to Communism grew strong among the population, especially during the McCarthy era. It was also in common use in South Africa during the apartheid era. In his two presidential campaigns, Alabama governor George Wallace often railed at "the left-wing pinko press" and at "pseudo-pinko-intellectuals."
Some of the most infamous uses of the term pink came during future president Richard Nixon's 1950 Senate campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas: "She's pink right down to her underwear!" — a play on the fact that, at the time, pink was the usual color of women's undergarments. Nixon regularly referred to her as "the Pink Lady", and his campaign distributed political flyers printed on sheets of pink paper.

Popular culture

One of the most famous uses of the term in popular culture was the ironic use by Charlie Daniels in his breakthrough 1972 hit "Uneasy Rider." The dope-running hippie narrator is stuck with a flat tire in Jackson, Mississippi. Attempting to avoid a beatdown by the locals, he attempts to deflect attention to one of the locals by accusing him of being "a friend of them long haired, hippy-type, pinko fags" sent by the FBI to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.
Archie Bunker, the patriarch of the Bunker family in the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family" often derisively used the term 'pinko' when referring to his liberal son-in-law Michael "Meathead" Stivic or Michael's friends.
Recently, the term was used repeatedly on the television series John Safran vs God when Safran is referring to his target demographic. Safran is likely to have intentionally referenced Daniels' "Uneasy Rider", and notably Safran had on a previous episode infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.
Although not using the word 'Pinko', there are several uses of the word 'Red' in the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and using the slogan "Rather be Dead than Red" on a banner, which a KGB agent runs over.
Pinko Mag is an online magazine, the Journal of Conscientious Hedonism.


Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bolshevik, Jacobin, Wobbly, anarchist, anarcho-syndicalist, extreme left-winger, extremist, left-wing extremist, lunatic fringe, mild radical, nihilist, parlor Bolshevik, parlor pink, pink, radical, red, revolutionary, revolutionist, sans-culotte, subversive, syndicalist, ultra, ultraist, yippie
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