We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Does "Rootin-Tootin" Mean?

By Alan Rankin
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

“Rootin tootin” is a whimsical American expression that means causing a ruckus or, more generally, exciting. It originated in 19th-century America, ostensibly in the Old West; its archaic nature is part of its charm. Although it has its roots in more common phrases, its use is generally limited to references to cowboy culture. Like “pardner” and “buckaroo,” its most common modern use is by someone trying to imitate a cowboy dialect, for humor or to create a theme.

The phrase “rootin tootin” is first recorded on paper in 1875, but may have been used as a colloquial expression for years before that. It seems to derive from the phrase “root,” meaning to cheer, which originated around the same time. The “toot” part of the phrase may refer to a similar saying, “to toot your own horn.” Both terms refer to loud, boisterous noise; hence “rootin tootin.” Alternatively, “tootin” may have been added just to make an amusing rhyme, a process language experts call reduplication.

Like many examples of frontier slang, “rootin tootin” was popularized by the Western movies of the early 20th century. Its amusing, archaic sound made even its description of rambunctious horseplay seem harmless. This made it ideal for singing cowboy Westerns, a popular sub-genre of the 1930s that used standard Western plots to present musical numbers. Popular singing cowboys included the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry, who starred in Rootin’ Tootin’ Rhythm in 1937.

The singing cowboys of the 1930s and ‘40s paved the way for the family-friendly television cowboys of the 1950s. These clean, well-dressed heroes would have been nearly unrecognizable to the frontier settlers of the previous century. A 2011 search of the Internet Movie Database turned up nearly a dozen uses of “rootin tootin” in dialogue, all from TV and movies of the mid-20th century. It is likely that the phrase was used more in those decades than it ever was by the actual cowboys and settlers of the Old West.

In the 21st century, “rootin tootin” is still in use in American English, with the same limited applications. It has become virtual shorthand to denote the use of a cowboy theme for a party, sale, or event. It can also be used ironically, when an activity fails to create sufficient excitement. The enduring popularity of country music and cowboy culture suggest that the phrase will continue to resurface in the future to describe activities that are rambunctious yet somehow safe at the same time.

Language & Humanities 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.
Discussion Comments
By anon1000662 — On Nov 11, 2018

I would add that there is a term "rooty toot toot" which is applied in general to all horn like-items from trumpets to bugles to kazoos to empty centers to toilet paper rolls - anything you can go "rooty toot toot" through as well as the noise made with them.

It may or may not be part of the origin of "rootin' tootin' " It's possible that it could have been applied to the loudest most boisterous cowboy in town, possibly even a scout or cavalry bugler and then extended to all loud and gregarious cowboys. Or rooty toot toot may have come from rootin' tootin'

In any case, Clint Eastwood was not a rootin' tootin' cowboy. Neither was Seth Bullock in Deadwood or Christian Bale in Hostiles. John Wayne was a rootin' tootin' cowboy in many of his later films, including True Grit, McClintock, and Eldorado. So was Yosemite Sam. And Judy Canova was a rootin' tootin' cowgirl, as was Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun.

Also, Hires Root Beer used to advertise it was "Hires Rootin'-Tootin' Rabble-Rousin', lion-roarin', Roman-candle-lightin' Root Beer!"

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.