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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for hunkering

huddle, squat, hunch, cower, wince, grovel, bow, stoop, bend, duck, quail, dip, kneel, quat

Examples from the Web for hunkering

Contemporary Examples of hunkering

Historical Examples of hunkering

  • Then she came round, and, 'hunkering' down beside us, opened her book and in a low voice began to read.

    Betty Grier

    Joseph Waugh

  • Do you remember how the child you once were sat in the brae, spinning the peerie, and hunkering at I-dree I-dree I droppit-it?

  • God made man to stand erect on his two feet, but you would be for ever hunkering like a monkey eatin' nuts.


    S. R. Crockett

  • Shann reached the next room in line, hunkering down to see within it.

    Storm Over Warlock

    Andre Norton

British Dictionary definitions for hunkering



(intr 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

Word Origin and History for hunkering



"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