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What is the 'Hood?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 17, 2024
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A 'hood, also known as a ghetto, is a specific area where people sharing a similar ethnic or racial background live. The word "'hood" is essentially the slang alternative for neighborhood, although it has come to mean much more. For example, "'hood" now brings to mind a poverty-stricken area that is within the confines of an urban area. In contrast, poor neighborhoods in rural areas are often referred to as rural ghettos rather than 'hoods. Traditionally, the word 'hood referred to areas where the main population was African American. In areas where a lot of Hispanic immigrants have settled, the areas are often called barrios, the Spanish word for neighborhood.

"The 'hood" is a term often used by rappers to refer to their place of birth or to a place where they have lived a good part of their life. In rap songs, this place is often associated with poverty and crime, although that is not always the case in real life. People who grew up in the 'hood sometime dislike "outsiders" using the term to refer to the same neighborhood. Somehow, the word "'hood" conveys a sense of brotherhood reserved to those who actually experienced the place and the community. In some areas, the word "'hood" is politically incorrect term believed to have elitist or racial overtones.

If we are to believe songs, the 'hood is an area where "gangsta culture" is very much alive, and where organized crime, the drug trade, and corrupt police forces are customary. The 'hood is not a place where you want to be, but a place you can be proud of escaping from. Rappers often use the word 'hood as a way of bringing back memories of a difficult past that has long been overcome. Boyz n the Hood is a 1991 film that is often cited as an example of "culturally significant" art. The film explores the lives of several young men living in South Central Los Angeles, an area well-known for its high crime level. Some other places that are commonly referred to as "the 'hood" are Brooklyn and South Bronx, parts of Houston, and Philadelphia (Philly).

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By RoyalSpyder — On Feb 07, 2014

@anon31638 - My advice to you would be to not let it get to you. As Viranty stated, unfortunately, that's the kind of society that we live in. Based on my personal experience, I can definitely tell you that it's not easy being stereotyped. Sometimes, others will look down on you, and they might even seem like they expect less of you. However, it's something you get used to eventually. In fact, think of it this way - people will say whatever it is that they want to about you. However, as long as you know the truth, that's all that matters.

By Viranty — On Feb 06, 2014

@anon31638 - I don't know if I have any advice for you, but I can definitely see how it could be very frustrating when people assume that you live in the "hood". That's what is called stereotyping. In other words, people associate an entire race of people with another person's (questionable) actions. For example, let's say that two black guys were outside of their high school smoking reefer. If someone saw them and just assumed that all black males smoke reefer, that would be considered stereotyping. It's definitely wrong when someone does it, but unfortunately, that's the kind of society we live in.

By Chmander — On Feb 05, 2014

@anon271059 - I definitely agree that the word "hood" is short for neighborhood. I hadn't even noticed that until you brought it up, ha ha. Because "hood" has become so embedded in our culture, it's nearly impossible to see it as a word shortening. We're always associating it with crime, poverty, and gang violence. In fact, I bet that if you were to go around your city and ask people about the word, not one of them would say that the term is short for neighborhood. It's interesting how once certain words and phrases become part of our culture, they become the new norm.

By RoyalSpyder — On Feb 05, 2014

In my opinion, not only does this article show how the meaning of words change over time, but even more importantly, it does a good job at showing some of the thoughts that can be associated with these new terms. For example, as the article states, the word "hood" is basically an alternative for neighborhood. However, as the article also states, nowadays, whenever we think of the word, what might come to our minds are areas filled with danger and poverty. Though there's nothing too wrong about this mindset, it's always good to be careful how we interpret things. If we're not careful, we can twist the meaning and intention around.

By anon341870 — On Jul 15, 2013

I'm 71 and "hood" has been around for as long as I have. It refers to a guy who is outside of the law.

By anon294448 — On Oct 01, 2012

My friend refers to me as 'big ladies of the hood.' What could that mean?

By anon271059 — On May 24, 2012

Listen up, "The Hood" is only short for the neighborhood nothing else. Anything else you hear about it is a lie! It has nothing to do with poverty, or high crime areas and when you parallel it to the worst things, the information is coming from some white person with money who has no clue what he/she is talking about. So instead of asking someone with fifth hand info (slang for information), ask someone who is from any neighborHOOD.

By anon238096 — On Jan 02, 2012

The term "hood" often references a "hooded" shirt or coat that protects an individual, can also referenced an association, gang or "hood" that protects.

By anon238095 — On Jan 02, 2012

How do you handle this situation? I am not sure. The term "hood" *may* have originally come from an environment or environments associated with inter-city culture. The term may be the result of over populations in cities, suburbs and rural areas across America. The term "hood" or "the hood" often is associated with mainstream culture related to drugs, income level, prostitution, and other facets of culture in general.

By anon133220 — On Dec 09, 2010

I come from low income black housing in Ann Arbor. "the hood" fool!

By anon50463 — On Oct 28, 2009

Is the hood a slang word for drug related area?

By anon31638 — On May 08, 2009

I go to a school where there are pretty wealthy African Americans. Just about all of the kids live in the suburbs. I am from the city, which often gets called the "hood". What is a "hood", I do not live in a huge house in the suburbs, but my parent makes a good deal of money. It hurts my feelings when people automatically assume I live in the "hood". They assume I come from a low income household or live among crime. Crime is everywhere and so are low income families. How do I handle this situation?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
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