[ duhngk ]
/ dʌŋk /
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See synonyms for: dunk / dunker on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
to dip or submerge something, oneself, etc., in a liquid: She thinks it's vulgar to dunk. Let's dunk in the pool before dinner.
Basketball. to execute or attempt a dunk shot.
any flavorful sauce, dip, gravy, etc., into which portions of food are dipped before eating.
Basketball. dunk shot.
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Origin of dunk

An Americanism first recorded in 1865–70; from Pennsylvania Dutch dunke “to dip, immerse”; compare German tunken, Middle High German dunken, tunken, Old High German thunkōn, dunkōn


dunk·a·ble, adjective, noundunker, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does dunk mean?

Dunk means to dip or submerge something in liquid or something like a liquid.

More specifically, it can refer to dipping foods into liquids or sauces or dips, like dunking a doughnut into coffee before eating it (but not for so long that it gets too soggy and part of it falls in—it’s a delicate process).

In basketball, to dunk is to put the ball directly into the hoop, especially forcefully (this kind of dunking is the opposite of delicate). Such a shot is called a dunk or a slam-dunk or a slam or a jam or a stuff or a throw-down (or even more colorful names, if you’re Darryl Dawkins).

Example: I like to dunk my fries into the milkshake—don’t knock it till you try it.

Where does dunk come from?

The first records of the word dunk come from the 1860s. It comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch word dunke, meaning “to dip” or “to immerse.” Dunke is related to the Middle German dunken, which means “to duck” and is the basis of the word duck (the verb, not the animal). Dunk started to be used in reference to the “dunk shot” in basketball around the 1950s.

Most generally, dunk refers to submerging something in a liquid. If you dunk your head in the water, you put it under and then pull it out. A dunk tank at a carnival is a game that involves trying to hit a target to submerge a (usually annoying) person into a tank of water. Usually, this kind of dunking involves a liquid like water, but you can also dunk things into thicker substances, like dunking a paintbrush into a can of paint.

The same thing goes for dunking when it involves food. Most commonly, foods are dunked in liquids, like cookies in milk or tea, or bread in soup. But you can also dunk foods into things other than liquids, like French fries in ketchup (or mayo), or chips in dip. However, doing these last two things is more often called dipping. If you want to get really technical about it, it’s perhaps more often called dunking when the goal is for the food being dunked to soak up whatever it’s being dunked into. If the goal is for something to coat the outside of it, it’s more likely to be called dipping. Of course, the two words are often used interchangeably.

Dunking is one of the most exciting parts of basketball. Dunks are usually intense, high-flying, and acrobatic. There are all different kinds of dunks: two-handed jams, windmill dunks, 360 dunks. The NBA hosts an annual dunk contest to see who can pull off the best dunk.

The term slam-dunk is sometimes used in a figurative way to refer to something that is certain to be successful, comparing the certainty of success to how easy it is to not miss when putting a basketball directly in the hoop—assuming you can jump that high and no one’s guarding you. In a real game, though, when there are a lot of people guarding the basket, it can be difficult to dunk, which makes it a big deal. When a player gets dunked on, their opponent dunks when they’re trying to stop them from doing exactly that (like when Scottie Pippen dunked on Patrick Ewing). By extension, the slang use of the expression dunk on means “to best someone in a dramatic and humiliating fashion.”

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What are some other forms related to dunk?

  • dunker (noun)
  • dunkable (adjective, noun)

What are some synonyms for dunk?

What are some words that share a root or word element with dunk

What are some words that often get used in discussing dunk?

How is dunk used in real life?

Dunking is just as fun with food as it is in basketball, and the word dunk is most commonly used in those two contexts.



Try using dunk!

Is dunk used correctly in the following sentence?

He dunks his cookies into milk with the intensity that Vince Carter dunks a basketball.

How to use dunk in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for dunk

/ (dʌŋk) /

to dip (bread, etc) in tea, soup, etc, before eating
to submerge or be submerged in liquid

Derived forms of dunk

dunker, noun

Word Origin for dunk

C20: from Pennsylvania Dutch, from Middle High German dunken, from Old High German dunkōn; see duck ², tinge
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