Ceramic figure by 17th century French artist Jacques Callot of a clown with a humpback

Alternative formsEdit


hump +‎ back


humpback (plural humpbacks)

  1. A humped back (deformity in humans caused by abnormal curvature of the upper spine).
    • 1691, John Dunton, A Voyage Round the World, London: Richard Newcome, Chapter 6, p. 122,[1]
      [] the Stone in my Fathers Body was so immense, that I’ve wonder’d it did not bunch up behind, and make him have a Hump-back, or at least overpoise him in walking, and drag him backward with its incredible weight.
    • 1709, Richard Steele, The Tatler, No. 75, 1 October, 1709 in The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff Esq., London, 1712, Volume 2, p. 166,[2]
      In the Male Line, there happened an unlucky Accident in the Reign of Richard the Third; the eldest Son of Philip, then Chief of the Family, being born with an Hump-back and very high Nose.
    • 1817, Walter Scott, Rob Roy, Chapter 11,[3]
      Diana Vernon, the most beautiful creature I ever beheld, in love with him, the bandy-legged, bull-necked, limping scoundrel! Richard the Third in all but his hump-back!
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 63,[4]
      [] Mr. Jos had the honour of leading out the Countess of Schlusselback, an old lady with a hump back, but with sixteen good quarters of nobility and related to half the royal houses of Germany.
    • 1948, Philip Gibbs, Behind the Curtain, Toronto: The Ryerson Press, Chapter 5,[5]
      He saw Dmitri half rise from his chair so that the shadow of his humpback shifted on the whitewashed wall.
    1. (by extension) A hump or protuberance on the shoulders or back of an animal.
      • 1902, Somerset Maugham, Mrs Craddock, London: Heinemann, 1955, Chapter 16, p. 157,[6]
        [] the cows stood about with gloomy eyes and hump-backs, surly and dangerous []
      • 1969, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Earth Shine, New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, “Immersion in Life,” p. 52,[7]
        On the bare hills one begins to see unfamiliar silhouettes of animals against the sky. [] the peaked humpbacks of gnu on a ridge []
    2. (figurative) A rounded topographical feature, such as a mountain or hill.
      • 1858, Royal B. Stratton, Captivity of the Oatman Girls, San Francisco: [for the author], Chapter 4, p. 134,[8]
        On either side were the high, irregularly sloped mountains, with their foot hills robed in the same bright green as the valley, and with their bald hump-backs and sharp peaks, treeless, verdureless, and desolate []
      • 1968, Barry England, Figures in a Landscape, New York: Random House, Part 1, p. 78,[9]
        The Goons kept appearing and disappearing in different places, always closer to them, as they worked their way over the humpback of the terrain.
      • 2002, Michael Collins, The Resurrectionists, Penguin, 2006, Chapter 38, p. 286,[10]
        I could see clear out to the humpbacks of small islands along the great lake, where small banks of fog hung.
  2. (derogatory, now offensive) A person with a humpback; a person who suffers from kyphosis.
    Synonyms: crookback, hunchback
    • 1860, George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Book 2, Chapter 6,[11]
      [] Tom’s more specific and kindly impressions gradually melted into the old background of suspicion and dislike toward him as a queer fellow, a humpback, and the son of a rogue.
    • 1951, Graham Greene, The End of the Affair, Penguin, 1975, Book 2, Chapter 7, p. 81,[12]
      [] I stared up at the raw spots on his cheek and thought, there is no safety anywhere: a humpback, a cripple—they all have the trigger that sets love off.
  3. A humpback whale.
  4. A humpback salmon.

Derived termsEdit

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humpback (third-person singular simple present humpbacks, present participle humpbacking, simple past and past participle humpbacked)

  1. To hunt humpback whales.
    • 1895, Charles Nordhoff, Whaling and Fishing, New York: Dodd, Mead, Chapter 10, p. 191,[13]
      The captain of the James Rodgers [] was an old hand at humpbacking []
    • 1953, Emma Mayhew Whiting and Henry Beetle Hough, Whaling Wives, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Chapter 16, p. 240,[14]
      [] the Alice Knowles [] did her whaling in the south Atlantic, by turns humpbacking off the African coast and cruising around Tristan in season.