Honky is a corruption of hungy or hunky, a term which originated in the stockyards and slaughterhouses of Chicago. The term may derive from "Bohunk" (Bohemian-Hungarian), which was used to refer to central Europeans. Black workers and Hungarian workers were two of the largest ethnic groups in the Chicago meat industry. Racial and ethnic tension between the two groups led Black workers to begin calling Hungarian workers, and those perceived as Hungarian workers, hunky, perhaps in retaliation for the familiar racist epithets to which black workers were subject. The corruption 'honky' emerged shortly thereafter.
Honkey was later adopted as a pejorative in 1967 by black militants within SNCC seeking a rebuttal for the term nigger. National Chairman of the SNCC, H. Rap Brown, on June 24, 1967, told an audience of blacks in Cambridge, "You should burn that school down and then go take over the honkey's school." Brown went on to say: "If America don't come `round, we got to burn it down. You better get some guns, brother. The only thing the honkey respects is a gun. You give me a gun and tell me to shoot my enemy, I might shoot Ladybird.
In Australasia and Singapore, a person of Hong Kong origin is categorised as a Hongky or "Hongkie", a term that some people of Hong Kong take offense at. They prefer to be called Hongkongers (or Hongkongese). In fact several brochures from the Hong Kong Tourism Board make reference to this new term.
On the TV show The Jeffersons, George Jefferson regularly referred to white people as honkys. This usage (while negatively affecting the later syndication of the show to some degree) added a familiar, less offensive tone to the word, which caused some acceptance of the term when used in the appropriate company, much in the same way earlier television shows had disseminated racial slurs about blacks.
The word honky may also refer to a particular type of country music, called honky-tonk.