Intermediate+ Word of the Day: fink

fink (noun, verb) /fɪŋk/

Did somebody fink?

Fink is a US slang term. It can be an informer, someone who gives information to authorities, a strikebreaker, or a labor spy. A contemptible or unattractive person can also be called a fink, though this sense is now obsolete. As a verb, to fink means ‘to inform to the police’ or ‘to act as a strikebreaker.’

Example sentences

  • The gang boss ordered a hit on the fink.
  • Everyone on the picket line shouted insults at the finks.
  • The union leaders suspected a fink had infiltrated their ranks.
  • That man is a total fink; I can't stand him.
  • How did the cops find out about the job? Someone must have finked!
  • The company bosses weren't worried about the strike, because the agency was supplying them with workers willing to fink.

Words often used with fink

fink out: withdraw from or renege on something. Example: “Steve said he’d lend me his motorcycle, but he finked out.”

In pop culture

Fin Greenall, known professionally as Fink, is a singer from Cornwall, in the South West of England. You can listen to his song “Word to the Wise,” from his 2017 album Resurgam, here:

Did you know?

Informally, in British English, think is sometimes pronounced like fink, especially in accents from London and South East England. In such accents, the “th” sound is replace by an “f,” “v,” or sometimes a “d” sound as this short video will tell you, along with other tips on how to do a cockney accent:


Fink dates back to the early 20th century, probably between the years 1900 and 1905. Its origin is uncertain, but most linguists think it came from the German Fink, which literally means ‘finch,’ but was also used figuratively to mean ‘informer’ or ‘a frivolous or dissolute person.’ If so, it can be traced back to the proto-Germanic noun finkiz, and probably originates as an imitation of the bird’s call. In this case, fink would be related to the Middle Low German and Middle Dutch vinke, the Dutch vink and the Old High German finco, all meaning ‘finch,’ as well as (of course) the English finch, and it may be loosely related to the Breton pint (chaffinch) and the Russian penka (wren). Some linguists, however, trace the origin to a variation on Pinks, short for the Pinkerton agents, which were a private police force hired to break up the Homestead strike, which became a massacre, in Pennsylvania (US) in 1892. The verb comes from the noun, and dates back to the 1920s. Like the noun, it originated as US slang and became popular around the world because of its use in gangster films.

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