from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • verb to crouch or squat; to sit on one's haunches.
  • verb to settle in at a location for an extended period; -- also (figuratively) to maintain a position and resist yielding to some pressure, as of public opinion.
  • verb to take shelter, literally or figuratively; to assume a defensive position to resist difficulties.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb idiomatic To take shelter; to prepare oneself for some eventuality; to focus on a task.
  • verb idiomatic To stubbornly hold to a position.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb take shelter
  • verb hold stubbornly to a position
  • verb sit on one's heels


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • Does anyone ever hunker up?

    November 2, 2007

  • Who would want to?

    November 2, 2007

  • "It was open, so we had to hunker up against the side of the house and keep real quiet.

    --Ralph Moody, 1991, Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers, p. 122

    July 27, 2009

  • Molly, surely here "up" is not part of the verb, but rather is part of the prepositional unit "up against".

    July 27, 2009

  • I suspect it can go either way. Look at a clear example where the two prepositions are in the same PP: We pushed the furniture up against the wall. (There's no verb complex 'push up' with this sense.) The PP can only be fronted as a whole:

    Up against the wall we pushed the furniture.

    * Against the wall we pushed the furniture up.

    Now compare 'prop up' + 'against':

    ? Up against the wall we propped the ladder.

    Against the wall we propped the ladder up.

    Both work for 'hunker up', for me. There's also a pronunciation test that shows both possibilities. Intransitive prepositions (such as particles) take a separate accent:

    This is the \chimney that I put it up.

    This is the \/office where I picked it \up.

    This is the \wall where I hunkered up.

    This is the \/wall where I hunkered \up.

    July 27, 2009