Hanker vs hunker

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Hanker and hunker are two words that are spelled similarly and also pronounced similarly, but have very different meanings. We will look at the definitions of the words hanker and hunker, where the terms come from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Hanker means to desire something, to yearn for something. Hanker is often used with a paired preposition such as hanker after and hanker for. Hanker is an intransitive verb which is a verb that does not take an object, related words are hankers, hankered, hankering. The word hankering is often used as a gerund, which is a verb form that is used as a noun. Hanker is a perfectly proper word, but it does have the connotation of old-fashionedness or informality. The exact origin of hanker is unknown, but it may be related to the Dutch word hunkeren which means to yearn for.

Hunker means to crouch down or to squat. Beyond the literal definition, hunker is often used figuratively to mean to settle into a task, to apply oneself seriously to a task. Hunker is also an intransitive verb, related words are hunkers, hunkered, hunkering. It is believed that hunker comes from the Scottish appropriation of a Scandinavian word, perhaps the Old Norse word huka which means to crouch.


As we begin to hanker for a bowl of chili during these short and chilly days, our staff went out looking at how local restaurants use chili on their menu. (The Pacific Northwest Inlander)

Blizzard conditions forced many people to hunker down in their homes and closed Interstate 70 across the state. (The Daily Journal)

“Folks will either hunker down and do nothing or anticipate tougher times – i.e. higher interest rates – and try to move quicker to buy.” (The Dallas Morning News)