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verb (used without object)
  1. to squat on one's heels (often followed by down).
  2. Informal.
    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.
  3. Slang. to lumber along; walk or move slowly or aimlessly.
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  1. hunkers, one's haunches.
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  1. on one's hunkers,
    1. British Informal.squatting on one's heels.
    2. suffering a period of poverty, bad luck, or the like.
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Origin of hunker

1710–20; apparently hunk (perhaps nasalized variant of huck haunch; akin to Old Norse hūka to crouch) + -er6


  1. a member of the conservative faction in the Democratic Party in New York State, 1845–48.
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Origin of Hunker

An Americanism dating back to 1835–45; origin uncertain
Related formsHun·ker·ism, nounHun·ker·ous, adjectiveHun·ker·ous·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


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.

  • 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


  1. (intr often foll by down) to squat; crouch
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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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper