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Possibly from obsolete Scots hink, from Old Norse hinka (to limp or hobble), probably not from Old English inca (doubt; suspicion). Possibly from hank (a loop or coil or anything that curbs or restrains). Possibly from African-American usage: hincty or hinkty.


hinky (comparative hinkier or more hinky, superlative hinkiest or most hinky)

  1. (informal) Acting suspiciously; strange, unusual; acting in a manner as if having something to hide, or seemingly crooked.
    • 1970 7 February 1970: Sgt. MacDonald (William Boyett), Re: Adam-12, Log 54 Impersonation (Season 2, Episode 16) referring to Detective Forest (John Hudson)
      I thought he might be acting hinky.
    • 1990 Oct 3: Kurt Guntheroth, Re: Market selling under highest bid?, misc.invest, [1]
      There's nothing hinky about this.
    • 1993 Jeb Stuart & David Touhy, The Fugitive,, [2]
      This is hinky, this guy's a college graduate...
    • 1995 Sep 26: Richard Steven Walz, Re: Odd etching chemistry; was: Re: Does dry ice fog hurt electronics?, sci.electronics, [3]
      And I don't know if that copper reaction you teased me with for H2CO3 would run that direction, would it? Looks hinky.
    • 2000 Carl Hiaasen, Sick Puppy, p. 101
      Given the hinky events of the past twenty-four hours, he had come to suspect that his own unhappy spouse had conspired in the defacing of his prize taxidermy, the trashing of the red BMW, and even the infesting of his luxury sport-utility vehicle with shit-eating insects.
    • 2004 Bruce Schneier qt. Diana Dean, Boston Globe (2004)
      A US customs agent, Diana Dean, questioned him at the border. He was fidgeting, sweaty, and jittery. He avoided eye contact. In Dean's own words, he was acting "hinky." Ressam's car was eventually searched, and he was arrested.
    • 2006 Dec 06: Hester Mofet, Re: Tip in '95 Disappearance of TV Anchor Jodi Huisentruit Doesn't Yield Much, alt.true-crime, [4]
      There's something hinky about this whole thing.
  2. (informal) Suspicious (of something).
    • 1993 Aug 20: Dave Ratcliffe, Re: Long Trips With Cats, rec.pets.cats, [5]
      I think they get hinky if everything is shaking around and they can't see much.
    • 1995 Jun 23: Rosco Benson, Re: HP Browning Mag safety, remove it?, rec.guns, [6]
      Lots of folks are hinky about removing ANY "safety" feature from a firearm.
    • 1999 Mar 14: Trn0, Re: HELP w/ taking a knife to another country (TANZANIA), rec.knives, [7]
      If the customs inspector gets hinky about letting them into the country, you can let him keep one as a gift.
    • 2005 Feb 11: tiny dancer, Re: Pregnant Ky. Woman Kills Attacker, alt.true-crime, [8]
      I was feeling a bit hinky about this one too.
  3. (informal) dishonest; sketchy; shady
  4. (informal, derogatory) Weird; nonstandard.
    • 1968 Sept 21: Officer Pete Malloy, as written by Jack Webb, intuiting that a citizen’s report of burglars casing the neighborhood is probably legitimate, Adam-12, Season 1, Episode 1 at 9:32, [9]
      This [call] shouldn’t be hinky – I’ve got a hunch they’re still floating around.
    • 1995 Feb 1: Gharlane of Eddore, Re: E2 is great SF,, [10]
      So either they've got a *really* hinky space drive, or they're just just plain fat-assed lard-brained idiots with delusions of competence.
    • 1997 Mar 11: Karen J. Cravens, Re: WRITERS!,, [11]
      Heck, I'd *much* rather the 68xxx architecture had caught on than Intel, with its hinky memory-handling.
    • 2006 Jan 4: Andrew H. Wakefield, Got the lathe -- followup, rec.crafts.metalworking, [12]
      The motor is rather hinky.
    • 2008 Sept 8: Dave Letterman discussing the climate crisis, The Late Show with Dave Letterman, Show #2980,, [13]
      I’ve been persuaded that something is hinky, and by God, you can quote me on that. Something is hinky.
  5. (informal) unreliable; wonky
  6. (informal) snobbish; haughty