- Usually folks. (used with a plural verb) people in general: Folks say there wasn’t much rain last summer.
- Often folks. (used with a plural verb) people of a specified class or group: country folk; poor folks.
- (used with a plural verb) people as the carriers of culture, especially as representing the composite of social mores, customs, forms of behavior, etc., in a society: The folk are the bearers of oral tradition.
- folks, Informal.
- members of one’s family; one’s relatives: All his folks come from France.
- one’s parents: Will your folks let you go?
- Archaic. a people or tribe.
- of or originating among the common people: folk beliefs; a folk hero.
- having unknown origins and reflecting the traditional forms of a society: folk culture; folk art.
- just folks, Informal. (of persons) simple, unaffected, unsophisticated, or open-hearted people: He enjoyed visiting his grandparents because they were just folks.
noun plural folk or folks
- (functioning as plural; often plural in form) people in general, esp those of a particular group or classcountry folk
- (functioning as plural; usually plural in form) informal members of a family
- (functioning as singular) informal short for folk music
- a people or tribe
- (modifier) relating to, originating from, or traditional to the common people of a countrya folk song
Old English folc “common people, laity; men; people, nation, tribe; multitude; troop, army,” from Proto-Germanic *folkom (cf. Old Frisian folk, Middle Dutch volc, German Volk “people”), from Proto-Germanic *fulka-, perhaps originally “host of warriors;” cf. Old Norse folk “people,” also “army, detachment;” and Lithuanian pulkas “crowd,” Old Church Slavonic pluku “division of an army,” both believed to have been borrowed from Proto-Germanic. Old English folcstede could mean both “dwelling-place” and “battlefield.”
Some have attempted to link the word to Greek plethos “multitude;” Latin plebs “people, mob,” populus “people” or vulgus; OED and Klein discount this theory but it is accepted in Watkins. The plural form has been usual since 17c. Superseded in most senses by people. Old English folc was commonly used in forming compounds, such as folccwide “popular saying,” folcgemot “town or district meeting;” folcwoh “deception of the public.” Folk-etymology is attested from 1890.
By Folk-etymology is meant the influence exercised upon words, both as to their form and meaning, by the popular use and misuse of them. In a special sense, it is intended to denote the corruption which words undergo, owing either to false ideas about their derivation, or to a mistaken analogy with other words to which they are supposed to be related. [The Rev. A. Smythe Palmer, “Folk-Etymology,” 1890]
Friendly, unpretentious. For example, Politicians meeting the public like to pretend they are just folks, but that’s not always true. [First half of 1900s]
see just folks.