hum·​bug | \ ˈhəm-ˌbəg How to pronounce humbug (audio) \

Definition of humbug

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something designed to deceive and mislead Their claims are humbug.
b : a willfully false, deceptive, or insincere person He's just an old humbug. denounced as humbugs the playwrights who magnify the difficulties of their craftTimes Literary Supplement
2 : an attitude or spirit of pretense and deception in all his humbug, in all his malice and hollowness— Mary Lindsay
3 : nonsense, drivel academic humbug
4 British : a hard usually peppermint-flavored candy


humbugged; humbugging

Definition of humbug (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: deceive, hoax humbugged by their doctors— G. B. Shaw

intransitive verb

: to engage in a hoax or deception

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Other Words from humbug


humbuggery \ ˈhəm-​ˌbə-​g(ə-​)rē How to pronounce humbug (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for humbug


imposture, fraud, sham, fake, humbug, counterfeit mean a thing made to seem other than it is. imposture applies to any situation in which a spurious object or performance is passed off as genuine. their claim of environmental concern is an imposture fraud usually implies a deliberate perversion of the truth. the diary was exposed as a fraud sham applies to fraudulent imitation of a real thing or action. condemned the election as a sham fake implies an imitation of or substitution for the genuine but does not necessarily imply dishonesty. these jewels are fakes; the real ones are in the vault humbug suggests elaborate pretense usually so flagrant as to be transparent. creating publicity by foisting humbugs on a gullible public counterfeit applies especially to the close imitation of something valuable. 20-dollar bills that were counterfeits

Examples of humbug in a Sentence

Noun tests showed that the “old” map of America was a cleverly made humbug those UFO stories are a lot of humbug Verb humbugged into believing that the bones were the skeleton of a prehistoric human being
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His bah-humbug to Halloween was in keeping with that tough line. Nicole Winfield, Star Tribune, 17 Oct. 2020 Like many American holidays, it is now encrusted with humbug and commercialism. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, 5 May 2020 As the story goes, he is visited by a trio of Christmas ghosts (whom Scrooge accuses of being humbugs). Elizabeth Wolfe And Douglas S. Wood, CNN, 21 Dec. 2019 Heroic detective, pilot, poet, magician and victor over all bullies and humbugs, animal or human, Freddy remains a model to us all. New York Times, 12 Mar. 2020 Merriam-Webster defines a humbug as something or someone that is false or deceptive. Elizabeth Wolfe And Douglas S. Wood, CNN, 21 Dec. 2019 Like every state, Colorado has its folklore, hoaxes, tall tales and humbugs. Tom Noel, The Know, 24 Aug. 2019 The commercial web steams on as a hopped-up, strung-out system of hyperlinks, engineered to mix Barnumesque humbug with authentic reports, and to overlap ads and news—the better to sucker the eye. Virginia Heffernan, WIRED, 23 May 2018 This was familiar big-corporation humbug, custom-built to obscure the real issues. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 18 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In its verb form, to be humbugged is to be deceived or be the victim of a hoax. Elizabeth Wolfe And Douglas S. Wood, CNN, 21 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'humbug.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of humbug


1750, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1749, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for humbug

Noun and Verb

origin unknown

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Dictionary Entries Near humbug

Humboldt Lake



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Cite this Entry

“Humbug.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for humbug



English Language Learners Definition of humbug

: language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people
: someone or something that is not honest or true
: a hard peppermint candy


hum·​bug | \ ˈhəm-ˌbəg How to pronounce humbug (audio) \

Kids Definition of humbug

1 : fraud sense 3 "… the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was nothing more than a humbug!"— L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz
2 : nonsense

More from Merriam-Webster on humbug

Nglish: Translation of humbug for Spanish Speakers


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