• (RP, Canada) IPA: /ˈhʌmbʌɡ/
  • (GA) IPA: /ˈhəmˌbəɡ/


  1. (countable, slang) A hoax, jest, or prank.
  2. (countable, uncountable, slang) A fraud or sham (countable); hypocrisy (uncountable).
  3. (countable, slang) A fraudster, cheat, or hypocrite.
    • 1877 November 24, Anna Sewell, “A Humbug”, in Black Beauty: His Grooms and Companions. The Autobiography of a Horse, London: Jarrold and Sons, 3, Paternoster Buildings, OCLC 228733457 ↗; republished as Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1922, OCLC 12069677 ↗, page 151 ↗:
      [I]n a few days my new groom came. He was a tall, good-looking fellow enough; but if ever there was a humbug in the shape of a groom, Alfred Smirk was the man. He was very civil to me, and never used me ill; in fact, he did a great deal of stroking and patting when his master was there to see it. […] [B]ut as to cleaning my feet, or looking to my shoes, or grooming me thoroughly, he thought no more of that than if I had been a cow.
  4. (uncountable, slang) Nonsense.
    • 1992, Nina Bawden, chapter 3, in Humbug, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, ISBN 978-0-575-05300-7; republished New York, N.Y.: Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1992, ISBN 978-0-395-62149-3, page 17:
      When they had gone, Ma Potter opened her eyes. She said, "Pay no attention, child. Don't upset yourself. Just humbug, that's all." / "What do you mean?" Cora whispered. […] "You mean, telling lies?" / "Not altogether. Humbuggery is what people talk without thinking. Lies are deliberate. Are you a clever child?"
  5. (countable, Britain) A type of hard sweet (candy), usually peppermint flavoured with a striped pattern.
  6. (US, countable, slang) Anything complicated, offensive, troublesome, unpleasant or worrying; a misunderstanding, especially if trivial.
  7. (US, countable, African American Vernacular, slang) A fight#Noun|fight.
  8. (countable, US, African American Vernacular, slang, dated) A gang.
  9. (countable, US, crime, slang) A false arrest on trumped-up charge#Noun|charges.
  10. (countable, slang) (Perhaps by extension) The piglet of the wild boar.
    • 2018, The Times, London, 24 November, page 3.
      Many have been cross-bred with commercial breeds such as Tamworths, producing a "superbreed" of fertile boar, which were "more robust", and could produce five or six young. known as humbugs, per litter.
Translations Translations Translations Interjection
  1. (slang) Balderdash!, nonsense!, rubbish#Interjection|rubbish!
    • 1843 December 18, Charles Dickens, “Stave I. Marley’s Ghost.”, in A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, London: Chapman & Hall, […], OCLC 55746801 ↗, pages 6–7 ↗:
      "A Merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach. / "Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!" / […] "Christmas a humbug, uncle!" said Scrooge's nephew. "You don't mean that, I am sure." / "I do," said Scrooge. "Merry Christmas! what right have you to be merry? what reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough." / "Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be dismal? what reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough." / Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, "Bah!" again; and followed it up with "Humbug."

humbug (humbugs, present participle humbugging; past and past participle humbugged)

  1. (slang) To play a trick#Noun|trick on someone, to cheat#Verb|cheat, to swindle#Verb|swindle, to deceive.
    • 1810, Henry Brooke, “Epilogue on Humbugging”, in Samuel Johnson and Alexander Chalmers, The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper; including the Series Edited, with Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Dr. Samuel Johnson: And the Most Approved Translations. The Additional Lives by Alexander Chalmers, F.S.A. In Twenty-one Volumes, volume XVII (Glover, Whitehead, Jago, Brooke, Scott, Mickle, Jenyns), London: Printed for J[ames] Johnson; [et al.], OCLC 460902446 ↗, page 428 ↗:
      Of all trades and arts in repute or possession, / Humbugging is held the most ancient profession. / Twixt nations, and parties, and state politicians, / Prim shopkeepers, jobbers, smooth lawyers, physicians, / Of worth and of wisdom the trial and test / Is—mark ye, my friends!—who shall humbug the best.
    • 1873 May 1, John F. French, “Farming—Present and Prospective”, in James O. Adams, New Hampshire Agriculture. Third Annual Report of the Board of Agriculture to His Excellency the Governor, Nashua, N.H.: Orren C. Moore, state printer, OCLC 659327991 ↗, pages 204–205 ↗:
      Then again farmers are shamefully, lamentably, sometimes almost ruinously humbugged. All classes it is true are humbugged to a certain extent, but farmers in my view suffer themselves to be fooled and swindled in this respect to a greater degree than any other class in the community. They are humbugged in seeds, humbugged in manures, humbugged in agricultural implements, humbugged by agents, humbugged by patent peddlers, humbugged by store-keepers, humbugged by politicians, humbugged by corporations, till finally, some of them are in danger of becoming little less than humbugs themselves.
  2. (US, African American Vernacular, slang) To fight; to act#Verb|act tough.
  3. (slang, obsolete) To waste#Verb|waste time talk#Verb|talking.

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