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[huhng-ker] /ˈhʌŋ kər/
verb (used without object)
to squat on one's heels (often followed by down).
  1. to hunch:
    The driver hunkered over the steering wheel.
  2. to hide, hide out, or take shelter (usually followed by down):
    The escaped convicts hunkered down in a cave in the mountains.
  3. to hold resolutely or stubbornly to a policy, opinion, etc., when confronted by criticism, opposition, or unfavorable circumstances (usually followed by down):
    Though all the evidence was against him, he hunkered down and refused to admit his guilt.
Slang. to lumber along; walk or move slowly or aimlessly.
hunkers, one's haunches.
on one's hunkers,
  1. British Informal. squatting on one's heels.
  2. suffering a period of poverty, bad luck, or the like.
Origin of hunker
1710-20; apparently hunk (perhaps nasalized variant of huck haunch; akin to Old Norse hūka to crouch) + -er6


[huhng-ker] /ˈhʌŋ kər/
a member of the conservative faction in the Democratic Party in New York State, 1845–48.
Compare Barnburner (def 3).
An Americanism dating back to 1835-45; origin uncertain
Related forms
Hunkerism, noun
Hunkerous, adjective
Hunkerousness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hunker
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They had struck it rich on a property they had bought on hunker.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
  • hunker reported that they had discovered no trace of the missing man.

    Frank Merriwell's Son Burt L. Standish
  • "I was going over to hunker Creek myself," concluded Wodley.

    To Alaska for Gold

    Edward Stratemeyer
  • There was a political meeting (hunker) at the capitol, but I pass'd it by.

    Complete Prose Works Walt Whitman
  • The silver-gray whig shakes hands with the hunker democrat; the former only differing from the latter in name.

    My Bondage and My Freedom Frederick Douglass
British Dictionary definitions for hunker


(intransitive) often foll by down. to squat; crouch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hunker

"to squat, crouch," 1720, Scottish, of uncertain origin, possibly from a Scandinavian source, cf. Old Norse huka "to crouch," hoka, hokra "to crawl." Hunker down, Southern U.S. dialectal phrase, popularized c.1965, from northern British hunker "haunch." Related: Hunkered; hunkering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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