See also: Humbug



A variety of mint humbugs (sense 5)


Origin unknown; the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) states that “the facts as to its origin appear to have been lost, even before the word became common enough to excite attention”.[1] It has been suggested that the word possibly derives from hummer((slang) An obvious lie), or from hum((dialectal and slang) to cajole; delude; impose on) + bug(a goblin, a spectre). In his Slang Dictionary (1872), English bibliophile and publisher John Camden Hotten (1832–1873) suggested a link to the name of the German city of Hamburg, “from which town so many false bulletins and reports came during the war in the last century”.[2]

Hotten also said he had traced the earliest occurrence of word to the title page of Ferdinando Killigrew’s book The Universal Jester (see quotations), which he dated to about 1735–1740.[2] This dating has therefore been adopted by other dictionaries. However, the OED dates the word to about 1750, as the earliest edition of Killigrew’s work has been dated to 1754.[1]



humbug ‎(plural humbugs)

  1. (slang) A hoax, jest, or prank.
    • 1754, Ferdinando Killigrew, The Universal Jester: or, A Pocket Companion for the Wits, London: Printed for R. Whitworth, at the Feathers, in the Poultry; J. Warcus, at the Indian-Queen, opposite the Mansion-House; R. Richards, next Barnard's-Inn, Holborn; W. Mynors, at the Corner of Chancery-Lane, Holborn; and W. Heard, at the Philobiblian's-Library, Piccadilly, OCLC 642524111, title page:
      The universal jester: or, a pocket companion for the wits. Being a choice collection of merry conceits, facetious Drolleries, humorous Waggeries, smart Repartees, pleasant Jokes, Clenchers, Closures, Bon Mots, and Humbugs; comic Stories, notable Puns, witty Quibbles, and ridiculous Bulls. To which are added, Mr. Puzzlewit's gimcracks ; or, A long String of out-o'th'-way Conundrums, diverting Rebusses, poignant Epigrams, odd and uncommon Epitaphs, &c. &c. All calculated to promote inoffensive Mirth, and divert good Company with Elegance and Taste. Containing more in Number, and greater Variety, than any Book of the Kind yet published. Humbly inscribed to the choice spirits of the age. By Ferdinando Killigrew, Esq.
  2. (slang) A fraud or sham.
    • 1845, Bagg on Magnetism: Or the Doctrine of Equilibrium
      Many times a whole audience will not only be crowded into a small room, but are noisy disbelievers, call it all a humbug, distract the mind of the magnetizer, and added to these, absolutely outwill the magnetizer, in their wish to bring odium upon the science, and carry their points and gain their ends.
  3. (slang) A fraudster, cheat, or hypocrite.
  4. (slang) Nonsense.
  5. (Britain) A type of hard sweet (candy), usually peppermint flavoured with a striped pattern.
  6. (US, slang) Anything complicated, offensive, troublesome, unpleasant or worrying; a misunderstanding, especially if trivial.
  7. (US, African American Vernacular, slang) A fight.
  8. (US, African American Vernacular, slang, dated) A gang.
  9. (US, crime, slang) A false arrest on trumped-up charges.





  1. (slang) Nonsense!


humbug ‎(third-person singular simple present humbugs, present participle humbugging, simple past and past participle humbugged)

  1. (slang) To play a trick on someone, to cheat, to swindle, to deceive.
  2. (US, African American Vernacular, slang) To fight; to act tough.
  3. (slang, obsolete) To waste time talking.

Derived termsEdit

Usage notesEdit

The spellings humbuging and humbuged exist, but are not nearly so common as humbugging and humbugged.


  1. 1.0 1.1 humbug, n. and adj.”, in OED Online, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1899.
  2. 2.0 2.1 John Camden Hotten (1864), “humbug”, in The Slang Dictionary; or, The Vulgar Words, Street Phrases, and “Fast” Expressions of High and Low Society. Many with Their Etymology, and a Few with Their History Traced, London: John Camden Hotten, Piccadilly, OCLC 222807583, page 157.

External linksEdit



From English.


  • IPA(key): [ˈhumbuɡ]
  • Hyphenation: hum‧bug


humbug ‎(plural humbugok)

  1. humbug


Inflection (stem in -o-, back harmony)
singular plural
nominative humbug humbugok
accusative humbugot humbugokat
dative humbugnak humbugoknak
instrumental humbuggal humbugokkal
causal-final humbugért humbugokért
translative humbuggá humbugokká
terminative humbugig humbugokig
essive-formal humbugként humbugokként
inessive humbugban humbugokban
superessive humbugon humbugokon
adessive humbugnál humbugoknál
illative humbugba humbugokba
sublative humbugra humbugokra
allative humbughoz humbugokhoz
elative humbugból humbugokból
delative humbugról humbugokról
ablative humbugtól humbugoktól
Possessive forms of humbug
possessor single possession multiple possessions
1st person sing. humbugom humbugjaim
2nd person sing. humbugod humbugjaid
3rd person sing. humbugja humbugjai
1st person plural humbugunk humbugjaink
2nd person plural humbugotok humbugjaitok
3rd person plural humbugjuk humbugjaik



  1. humbug!