1. Informal A raccoon.
2. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a black person.
[Short for RACCOON. Sense 2, perhaps after Zip Coon, an African American character (depicted as an upstart freeman) in the song “Zip Coon” frequently sung in 19th-century blackface minstrel shows (the character perhaps being so named in reference to the black facial mask of the raccoon and to the practice of hunting and eating raccoons frequently mentioned in minstrel show songs), possibly influenced by 19th-century slang coon, rural white American (often one of modest means and opposed to the slave-owning Southern establishment), fellow, so called in reference to the association of coonskin with American frontiersmen.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.