Posted by SR on November 15, 2004
The phrase 'hunker down' seems originally to have been Scottish, maybe the eighteenth century? Does anyone know exactly what its origin is?
Old Norse 'huka' means to squat.
Modern Dutch 'huiken' and German 'hocken,' meaning to squat or crouch.
The word is popular in American English, in phrases like 'hunker down' or 'on your hunkers.'
The Oxford English Dictionary description of how to hunker: "squat, with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels, and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet."
'The advantage of this position is that you're not only crouched close to the ground, so presenting a small target for whatever the universe chooses to throw at you, but you're also ready to move at a moment's notice. Hunker down has also taken on the sense of to hide, hide out, or take shelter, whatever position you choose to do it in. This was a south-western US dialect form that was popularised by President Johnson in the mid 1960s. Despite its Scots ancestry, hunker is rare in standard British English.' (WW)