Hunker down

Hunker down is a literal phrase that has taken on a figurative meaning, which makes it an idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom hunker down, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Hunker down may mean to take shelter. For instance, one may hunker down in one’s house during inclement weather. Hunker down may also mean a mental effort to settle in for the long haul. One may hunker down into one’s work if it is going to take unrelenting, slow effort to get something done. Hunker down implies endurance. The word hunker is Scottish, used from the early 1700s to mean to squat on the balls of one’s feet, ready to spring into action. The idiom hunker down is traced to the America South, originating sometime around the turn of the twentieth century. Related phrases are hunkers down, hunkered down, hunkering down.

“We need to hunker down, keep everybody as healthy as we can, and get through this.” (The Evening Observer)

Release of the latest 15-day plan for slowing the spread of the virus came as state and local government officials pleaded with the Trump administration to mount a coordinated response to the pandemic, as millions of workers and students were already hunkering down at home. (Reuters)

However, Mercatante said it may also come down to the sacrifices local residents are willing to make to “hunker down,” avoiding large gatherings, distant travel and non-essential events. (The Port Huron Times-Herald)

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