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Hun

[huhn]
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noun
  1. a member of a nomadic and warlike Asian people who devastated or controlled large parts of eastern and central Europe and who exercised their greatest power under Attila in the 5th century a.d.
  2. (often lowercase) a barbarous, destructive person; vandal.
  3. Older Slang: Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a German, especially a German soldier in World War I or II.
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Origin of Hun

before 900; 1895–1900 for def 3; singular of Huns, Old English Hūnas; cognate with Old Norse Hūnar; akin to Late Latin Hunnī
Related formsHun·like, adjective

Usage note

The disparaging and offensive use of this term likens the Germans to the barbarous and warlike Huns of the 4th and 5th centuries. The source of the comparison was a speech by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1900, encouraging German soldiers bound for China to act toward the Chinese just like “the Huns a thousand years ago.”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for huns

Hun

noun
  1. a member of any of several Asiatic nomadic peoples speaking Mongoloid or Turkic languages who dominated much of Asia and E Europe from before 300 bc, invading the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries a.d
  2. informal (esp in World War I) a derogatory name for a German (def. 2)
  3. informal a vandal
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Derived FormsHunlike, adjective

Word Origin

Old English Hūnas, from Late Latin Hūnī, from Turkish Hun-yū
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 huns

Hun

Old English, person from a tribe from central Asia that overran Europe in the 4c. and 5c., from Medieval Latin Hunni, apparently ultimately from Turkic Hun-yü, the name of a tribe (they were known in China as Han or Hiong-nu). Figurative sense of "reckless destroyer of beauty" is from 1806. Applied to the German in World War I by their enemies because of stories of atrocities, but the nickname originally was urged on German soldiers bound for China by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1900, which caused a scandal.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

huns in Culture

Huns

A tribe from western Asia who conquered much of central and eastern Europe during the fifth century. The Huns were known for their cruelty and destructiveness.

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Note

The British frequently referred to German soldiers as “Huns” during World War I and World War II as a way of emphasizing their supposed brutality.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.