stooge (noun, verb) /studʒ/ LISTEN
A stooge is an entertainer who gives lines to a comedian and is usually the target of his or her jokes or, more generally, any accomplice or assistant. In magic shows, for example, the stooge is the person who acts as if she or he is one of the spectators. Informally, stooge is used to talk about a person who is taken advantage of by someone else or is ridiculed or portrayed as a fool. As a verb, to stooge means ‘to act as a stooge.’
- The stooge did a great job of feeding the comedian lines.
- The magician had several stooges planted in the audience to act like willing volunteers to help her with her tricks.
- The private detective used one of his stooges to follow his client's wife.
- John is fed up with being treated as a stooge by his boss.
- The comedian is looking for a new partner to stooge for her.
In pop culture
The Three Stooges were an American comedy team. You can see a clip of one of their routines here:
In comedy shows, a stooge is also known as a straight man or straight woman.
Did you know?
In the Second World War, stooge was also a slang word in the British Royal Air Force for a flight where the plane’s crew did not expect to meet with the enemy.
Stooge is a fairly recent addition to the English language. It dates back to 1913, and originally meant ‘a stage assistant’ or ‘an actor who assists a comedian.’ Its origin is uncertain, but some linguists think it may come from an alteration of student, mispronounced stoo-jent, since the stooge was often a student or apprentice of the comedian. The sense ‘lackey or person used for someone else’s purposes’ was first recorded in the 1930s.