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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HUNKER, v., n. Also hunkir; hungker; hounker (Abd. 1790 A. Shirreffs Poems Gl., Cai.1 c.1920); ¶hanker. Cf. Hookers, Huk, Hoker. [′hʌŋkər, Cai. ′hʌuŋkər]

I. v. 1. intr. To squat with thighs, knees and ankles acutely bent; to seat oneself in a crouching position or on one's haunches. Freq. with doun. Also fig. Rarely refl. Gen.Sc. Used derisively of genuflexion in non-Presbyterian forms of worship. Ppl.adj. hunkered, hunkert, on one's hunkers, in a crouched or cramped position; vbl.n. hunkering; adv. hunkery, hunkertie (Abd.), on one's hams, as in sliding on ice (Abd. 1957).Edb. 1720 A. Pennecuik Helicon 80:
And hunk'ring down upon the cald Grass.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore (S.T.S.) 92:
Upo' the ground they hunker'd down a' three.
Sc. 1806 R. Jamieson Ballads I. 348:
He hunkert him down like a clockin hen And flyret at me as I wad hae him.
Ags. 1849 Brechin Advertiser (1 May) 4:
Some gaed doon ae fitty, some hunkery an some heels owre head.
Lnk. 1880 Clydesdale Readings 227:
The men . . . sat, lay, an' hunkered on the floor.
Sc. 1891 J. G. McPherson Golf & Golfers 7:
Old Tom Morris had a swing too laboured; . . . his clubs were flatter, so that he had to take a “hunkered” position.
Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick i.:
The laird . . . whirled past the kirk yett ilka Sabbath mornin wi' his neb cockit in the air, awa doun by, to hunker wi' the Yepiscopawlians.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xi.:
Hunkering low to watch, with his hands on his knees.
Per. 1903 H. MacGregor Souter's Lamp 100:
The superstitions and “hunkerings” which debased the religion of England were mercilessly exposed.
Bnff. 1924 Swatches o' Hamespun 81:
He fidged an' warslet as he hunkert him doon.
Ags. 1947 J. B. Salmond Toby Jug iv.:
Margit . . . sat down on the sun-warmed rock, and Johnny hunkered down beside her.
m.Sc. 1983 Frederic Lindsay Brond 31:
Primo was hunkered down against the wall by the close, easy in the warm sun.
Abd. 2000 Sheena Blackhall The Singing Bird 32:
Claik a hunner different leids
Dwines tae a hoolet's lanely croon.
Nicht, like a taed, his hunkered doon.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 128:
Carlin hunkered down. 'Well, I'm sorry tae disappoint ye, but ye're right in the road o aboot twenty tourists that are headin up here in the next five minutes.'

Combs.: (1) hunkerticur, v., to slide sitting on one's hunkers (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.). Cf. Curriehunkers; (2) hunker-tottie [ < hunkertit-ie], adv., in a crouching position; (3) hunkertys [ < hunkertweys], adv., id. (Ags. 1957).(2) Fif. 1909 Colville 129:
Open snow-clad stretches were seamed with the sheen of slides, whereon . . . the boys careered, erect or hunker-tottie.
(3) Ags. 1887 A. D. Willock Rosetty Ends 74, 178:
Doon they gaed, . . . some staunin', some hunkertys. A lang coorse o' sittin' hunkertys, an' wearin' breeks had maybe worn oor tails oot o' sicht.

2. In a somewhat extended sense: to huddle, to sit or settle oneself in a crouching or cramped position (Ork., Ags., m.Lth., Kcb. 1957). Sometimes with doun. Also fig.Rnf. 1790 A. Wilson Poems 210:
An' now-an'-than a wee bit Cot, Bare, hunkerin' on some lanely spot.
Rnf. 1840 J. Mitchell Wee Steeple's Ghaist 152:
Age may sit hunk'ring in the neuk.
Lnk. 1883 A. R. Fisher Poems 8:
How fain and cagie is our Tam when by the ingle cheek We hunker doon upon the stool to tak' our usual reek.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae Langsyne in Braefoot 16:
“Ye maun be bluid-born ere ye settle here,” and he waved an affectionate hand up the long village street. “Andrae Crawford ower by has the keys o' the shoppie, but think weel ere ye hunker doon.”
Bch. 1929 J. Milne Dreams o' Buchan 52:
Aw hunker ower the fire maleen An' dream o' simmer days.

3. Fig. To stoop, submit, resign oneself to circumstances, abase oneself (m.Lth. 1957).Lnk. 1808 W. Watson Poems 91:
We just maun hunker till the day Their help 'ill no be needet.
Per. 1888 J. Smith Poems 17:
By love tae man, an' a' that's guid, We'll hunker doon tae nane!
Ags. 1900 Arbroath Guide (1 Sept.) 3:
Gin we ging back the noo an' hunker doon, Ye ken, we'll never hear the end o't.
Sc.(E) 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ i. xxiv.:
Wha noo unbauldly hunkers hissel tae the judgments o' ithers.

II. n. 1. In pl. The hams or haunches, the backs of the thighs. Gen. in phr. (up)on one's hunkers, (1) in a squatting position. Gen.Sc. Occas. found in Eng. dial.; (2) fig., in a quandary; in reduced circumstances, “on one's last legs, on one's beam-ends” (Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 90; m.Sc., Kcb., Dmf. 1957).(1) Sc. 1756 M. Calderwood Journey (M.C.) 164:
It goes down with a step, which makes the door so low, that if any body from without speaks to you, they must sit down on their hungkers.
Ayr. a.1796 Burns Jolly Beggars Recit. vi. 9–10:
Wi' ghastly e'e poor Tweedle-Dee Upon his hunkers bended.
Rxb. 1808 A. Scott Poems 48:
When in a bog twa paddocks sat, . . . Cock't on their hunkers, facin' ither.
Arg. c.1850 in L. McInnes Dial. S. Kintyre (1936) 30:
Doon on our hunkers let us crooch.
e.Lth. 1887 P. McNeill Blawearie vii.:
Did ye sit on yer hunkers, wi' a foot ranst against the wa' face, when ye began to “puil”.
Fif. 1894 J. Menzies Our Town 155:
He'll gang on his hunkers an' recant.
Kcb. 1894 Crockett Lilac Sunbonnet xvi.:
I was suppler in gettin' up aff my hunkers then than at the present time.
Uls. 1901 J. W. Byers North. Whig:
Another [accomplishment of a good slider] is to squat down with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent so as to bring the hams near the heels and throw the whole weight upon the forepart of the feet — that is, to “go upon the hunkers”.
Abd. 1915 H. Beaton Benachie 25:
In harvest the corn was cut with “hyeuks,” in which operation the women took their part, a very trying one for the first day or two, owing to the awkwardness of sitting on the “hunkers” so long.
Gsw. 1957 Bulletin (19 Oct.):
All down on our hunkers tugging at the carpet.
m.Sc. 1979 Ian Bowman in Joy Hendry Chapman 23-4 (1985) 41:
they wis sittin' a' thegither,
some on their hunkers,
some wi' their legs straucht oot.
Edb. 1986 Fred Urquhart in Joy Hendry Chapman 46 40:
The tinker's quick dark brown eyes glittered with anger; then he shrugged and sat down again on his hunkers against the dyke.
wm.Sc. 1995 Alan Warner Morvern Callar 85:
I was down on my hunkers cupping up cold river water and dashing it on my face.
(2) Per. 1830 Perthshire Advertiser (6 May):
This question threw the civic functionary fairly on his “hunkers”.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 228:
Oor cheese is on its hunkers, but you'll hae a preein' o't for a' that.
Sc.(E) 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ i. xiii.:
Bot an he hauds hissel up wi' lang-tholin whan he's on his hunkers, than thar wull be houp o' muckle fordal.

2. The pastime of sliding upon ice on one's hunkers (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.).

3. Combs.: (1) currie-hunkers, see Currie-hunkers; (2) cutty-hunker, see Cutty, n., 3.; (3) hunker-bane, thigh bone, femur (Cai., Per. 1957); (4) hunker-slide, hanker- (Watson), v., (a) to slide on ice in a crouched position, sitting on one's hunkers (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 278; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Vbl.n. hunker-sliding; (b) fig. to evade a duty or a promise, to “slither out of” an undertaking, to act in a shifty manner, to prevaricate. Gen.Sc.; to run off, decamp (Watson). Hence hunker-sliding, vbl.n., dishonourable or shifty conduct, evasive behaviour, “back-sliding”; ppl.adj., evasive, “slippery”, dishonourable; hunker-slider, a “slippery customer.” Gen.Sc.(3) Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 25:
Yer shouthers, ribs, an' hunker-banes are teetin' throu' the skin.
(4) (a) Ayr. 1828 J. Dunlop Curling (1883) 40:
Nor think o' hame, nor mother's flyte, Till tired wi' hunker-sliding.
(b) wm.Sc. 1888 Anon. Archie Macnab 8:
Noo, Archie M'Nab, nane o' yer hunker-slidin'.
Dmf. 1912 J. L. Waugh Robbie Doo 144:
I'm a man o' action. When I mak' up my mind to do a thing it's dune there and then. Nae hanker-slidin' wi' me.
Rxb. 1918 Kelso Chron. (17 May) 2:
The day's catch is duly checked and attested by “any J.P. or local post or station master.” No hunker-sliding — no fish under seven inches to be weighed.
Uls. a.1929 L. J. Walsh Yarns 159:
The rest's such a lot of oul' hunkersliders that they'll jist do whatever he bids them.
Sc. 1936 D. Rorie Lum Hat 28:
The hunker-slidin' bleck! The coorse ill-deedie chiel!
Abd. 1957 People's Jnl. (14 Dec.):
Weel, there wis nae hunker-slidin' aboot the programme.

[Appar. a nasalised freq. deriv. of *huk which is found in Mid.Du. hucken, Ger. hucken, hocken, O.N. húka, to squat. Cf. Hookers. There may be some formal influence from Du. hunkeren, to hanker.]

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"Hunker v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 May 2024 <>



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