beatnik

Definition

Slang

  • noun someone following a beat lifestyle or modes of dress. The term was coined by newspapermen to deride the self-styled members of the beat generation but was later adopted by beatniks themselves; the ‘-nik’ suffix came from Russian and was meant to identify the beats with godless Communism (as well as being a derogatory word-ending in Yiddish terms such as nudnik). Aspects of the beatnik lifestyle included scruffy dress (often black), berets, modern jazz, coffee bars, a slightly more liberal attitude to sex than their contemporaries, at least a pretence at interest in modern arts and literature and a youth cult. Beatniks had passed their peak by 1960, but many of them (who incidentally referred to themselves simply as beats) were absorbed into the hippy movement in the mid-1960s.
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