Posted by: Jack Henry | April 21, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Hunker Down

Dear Editrix,

What is this phrase I keep hearing, “hunker down”? I found this photo of a “hunk in down” (well, I’m not sure what he’s wearing, but I don’t care), but I don’t think that’s what people are talking about. Please explain.



Dear Jax,

According to my research, Mr. Tom Hardy and the phrase “hunker down” are both from the UK. Here’s what I learned from our buddies at Merriam-Webster:

1: crouch, squat — usually used with down

2: to settle in or dig in for a sustained period — used with down

The Grammarist provides a little more information:

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.

Though several of the articles, including this one, referenced the phrase “hunker down” when referring to preparing for natural disasters like tornados and hurricanes, my feeling is that recent references are probably more about sheltering in place as the coronavirus works its way across the world.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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