Hunker Down

On March 15th, 2020 the director of the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, quoted in Slate in response to the Covid-19 or coronavirus crisis, used an idiom that was quite familiar to me but caused a huge uptick in searches for this not so often heard idiom.

He said Americans as a whole “should be prepared that they’re going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing” in order to stop the spread of covid-19.

What did he mean?

Meaning of Idiom ‘Hunker Down’

1. To hunker down means to stay in one place for a period of time whether in order to protect oneself, as from police pursuit, or to focus your efforts on doing something.

2. (earlier meaning) To squat down near the floor or ground, or to squat on one’s heel or low seat such as a stone or small stool.


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Examples Of Use

“The best thing to do is hunker down until the heat is off, said the robber to his partner.”

“I’m snowed in so I’m just going to hunker down and catch up on some work.”

“I’m not feeling well, said Robin to her boss. ‘Ok, Robin, you just hunker down and rest until you feel better.”

“The hiker hunkered down near a stream and listened to the sound of the water for a while.”

Origin of Idiom

The word hunker could be considered a fossil word in English as it is never heard outside this idiom. It originally meant to squat or crouch down low but has since fallen out of use except in the modern use of this idiom.

The earlier and more literal meaning was used since at least the 1700s while the more current meaning did not become common until the 1970s.

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