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hum·​bug ˈhəm-ˌbəg How to pronounce humbug (audio)
: something designed to deceive and mislead
Their claims are humbug.
: 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
: an attitude or spirit of pretense and deception
in all his humbug, in all his malice and hollownessMary Lindsay
: nonsense, drivel
academic humbug
British : a hard usually peppermint-flavored candy
humbuggery noun


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humbugged; humbugging

transitive verb

: deceive, hoax
humbugged by their doctorsG. B. Shaw

intransitive verb

: to engage in a hoax or deception
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
Recent Examples on the Web
Plump four-poster beds are covered in rich floral fabrics or set against wallpaper patterned like humbugs. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, 13 Dec. 2023 Well then, the author cannot be blamed for what might be called the worldwide humbug over the robots. IEEE Spectrum, 16 Jan. 2024 Mean One features David Howard Thornton, known for playing Art the Clown in the Terrifier movies, as a familiar-looking green-skinned humbug in a Santa suit, living on a mountain high above the small town town of Newville. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 5 July 2023 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
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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'humbug.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

origin unknown

First Known Use


1750, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1749, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of humbug was in 1749

Dictionary Entries Near humbug

Cite this Entry

“Humbug.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a false or deceiving person or thing : fraud
humbug verb

More from Merriam-Webster on humbug

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