Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Something intended to deceive; a hoax or fraud.
  • n. A person who claims to be other than what he or she is; an impostor.
  • n. Nonsense; rubbish.
  • n. Pretense; deception.
  • interj. Used to express disbelief or disgust.
  • transitive v. To deceive or trick.
  • intransitive v. To practice deception or trickery.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A hoax, prank or jest
  • n. A fraud or sham
  • n. A fraudster or cheat
  • n. A type of chewy sweet (candy)
  • interj. nonsense!
  • v. To play a trick on.
  • v. To cheat, swindle.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An imposition under fair pretenses; something contrived in order to deceive and mislead; a trick by cajolery; a hoax.
  • n. A spirit of deception; cajolery; trickishness.
  • n. One who deceives or misleads; a deceitful or trickish fellow; an impostor.
  • transitive v. To deceive; to impose; to cajole; to hoax.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To deceive by a false pretense; impose upon; cajole; hoax.
  • To practise deceit or trickery.
  • n. A trick; an imposition, especially an imposition perpetrated under fair and honorable pretenses; a hoax.
  • n. A spirit of deception or imposition; falseness; hollowness; pretense; sham: as, there is a great deal of humbug about him.
  • n. An impostor; a cheat; a deceitful fellow; a person given to cajolery, flattery, or specious stories.
  • n. A form of nippers for grasping the cartilage of the nose in refractory cattle.
  • n. A kind of candy. See the extract.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. pretentious or silly talk or writing
  • n. something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage
  • n. communication (written or spoken) intended to deceive
  • v. trick or deceive

Etymologies

Origin unknown.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First in use about 1735-40, from hum ("(dialectal and slang) to delude, impose on, cajole") + bug ("a specter, goblin") (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • Humbug in northern Australia is often just a way of life. The relentlessly persistant making of demands until the demands are met. Usually the person doing the humbugging is in a relationship with the humbugee that entitles the humbugger to make demands and there will be someone else whom the humbugee can legitimately humbug and so the cycle goes on. Gets nasty when grog (alcohol) and domestic violence break down cultural commitments.

    May 21, 2012

  • From the Editor's Drawer of 'Harper's New Monthly Magazine,' No. CCLXXXVI--March 1874--Vol. XLVIII.

    Speaking of the word "humbug," DeQuincey says "it rests upon a very firm and comprehensive basis. It can not be rendered adequately either by German or by Greek, the two richest of human languages. Its origin, however, is wrapped in doubt, the stories concerning it being vague and uncertain. The following I regard as the most trustworthy: At one time there was war between Germany and Austria, and constantly the wildest and most incredible stories concerning the victory or defeat of the German arms would be spread, entirely without truth. They were all traced to Hamburg; so, whenever any thing marvelous was announced, men would say, 'Oh! that is a Hamburg,' and finally a 'humbug.' "

    September 21, 2009

  • right. that's the only way. *sputtering rage*

    July 28, 2009

  • "The Mayor of Alice Springs, Damien Ryan, says the new by-laws are what the community wants.
    'Begging is an issue that is not very acceptable in the fact that people prey on other people, they prey on the elderly, they prey on visitors, they prey on families,' he said. 'I mean begging, or humbugging, is something that is not appreciated in the community. We don't have anyway to stamp that out, that's why this has been brought about.'
    He rejected suggestions the by-laws were racist."
    - Katrina Bolton, Plan to strip blankets from Alice homeless, abc.net.au, 27 July 2009.

    July 28, 2009

  • The prevalence of humbug by Max Black.

    December 25, 2008