Loonie, Loony, or Looney – What’s the Difference?

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Although a loon is an actual bird, Gaviidae sp., the name has been borrowed multiple times as slang alternatives to provide various meanings to various things. Slang words are often derived from legitimate words to provide a connotative meaning related to their original use.

Slang is usually specific to regional or cultural uses, which can create confusion for anyone unfamiliar with a word’s original definition. Looney, loonie, and loony are examples of how a simple word can be changed to mean something very different.

Let’s learn what loonie, loony, and looney mean.

What’s a Loonie?

Loonie Loony or Looney Whats the Difference

A loon is a type of waterfowl native to North America, Asia, and Europe and comprises five different species – all of which belong to the diver category of waterfowl. Divers spend most of their time on the water and can dive to great depths when fishing.

All five species can be found on the North American continent and are common sights along the Northern States and Canada’s waterways, making them an icon to those living in these areas. Their unique plumage, habits, and haunting cries are also part of the area’s cultural history.

In 1987, Canada minted a dollar coin with a loon on one of the faces. It quickly became known as a “loonie” and has been called it ever since.

For example:

  • Be sure to get the correct change when you go to the store; you should get at least a loonie and a half.
  • Make sure to hold onto any original loonies you may have. With the phasing out of some coins, they might be worth something one day.

What’s a Loony or Looney?

Loonie Loony or Looney Whats the Difference 1

Loon also has a secondary, derogatory connotation and can be used to call a person crazy, illogical, mentally ill, or just foolish. In this aspect, it is considered a shortened version of the word lunatic. It is regarded as an insensitive term and should be avoided.

Lunatic is a term used to describe somebody who is considered crazy. Its origins are found in its root word, luna, meaning moon. The etymology derives from the 13th-century Old French lunatique, meaning “insane,” and the Late Latin lunaticus, meaning “moon-struck.” In this sense, a lunatic was a person who exhibited disturbing or insane behaviors believed to be influenced by the phases of the moon.

As a noun, loon or loony (also spelled looney) means a person is illogical or insane. The plural is spelled loonies.

For example:

  • Goodness, she is such a loon! Whatever made her think to travel downstate alone through the snowstorm?!
  • You really are a loony if you think missing the week before finals is a good idea.

Loony is an adjective that describes something or someone as being outside of their right mind, crazy, or lacking the ability to make logical decisions. Something can be loonier or looniest as well.

For example:

  • That is the looniest idea I have ever heard of!
  • Your claims would make sense if you had bothered to research them and added in examples, but presented without makes them sound absolutely loony.

What Is a Loony Bin?

The term loony bin is for a mental illness hospital where people are institutionalized because they cannot safely live on their own. This term is highly derogatory and should be avoided.

What Does Loony Tunes Mean?

“Loony tunes” is a synonym for loony. Usually, people go loony tunes or are loony tunes. It comes from a popular American children’s cartoon series, Looney Tunes, where the characters always acted illogically.

Let’s Review

Loonie is the slang term for a Canadian one-dollar coin depicting a loon, a common waterfowl, on its face.

Loony, also spelled looney, is another way to say someone is a lunatic or acting irrationally or possibly mentally disturbed manner. To seriously call somebody a loon or loony if they are mentally ill is very offensive and should be avoided. The term can be used in a more lighthearted manner as a way that highlights a person’s illogical actions.

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