noun hum·bug \ ˈhəm-ˌbəg \
|Updated on: 1 Jun 2018

Definition of humbug

1 a : something designed to deceive and mislead
  • Their claims are humbug.
  • She's only 30? 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 craft
  • Times 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


play \ˈhəm-ˌbə-g(ə-)rē\ noun

Examples of humbug in a Sentence

  1. tests showed that the “old” map of America was a cleverly made humbug

  2. those UFO stories are a lot of humbug

Recent Examples of humbug from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of humbug

origin unknown

Synonym Discussion of 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




Definition of humbug

humbugged; humbugging
: deceive, hoax
  • humbugged by their doctors
  • —G. B. Shaw
: to engage in a hoax or deception

Examples of humbug in a Sentence

  1. humbugged into believing that the bones were the skeleton of a prehistoric human being

Origin and Etymology of humbug

humbug Synonyms




do a number on, lead one down the garden path (also lead one up the garden path), pull one's leg, pull the wool over one's eyes;

HUMBUG Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of humbug for English Language Learners

  • : language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people

  • : someone or something that is not honest or true

  • : a hard peppermint candy

HUMBUG Defined for Kids


noun hum·bug \ ˈhəm-ˌbəg \

Definition of humbug for Students

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

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up humbug? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


soothing, mild, or foolish

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name More Food!

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!