: to expose the sham or falseness of
Did You Know?
If you guessed that debunk has something to do with bunk, meaning "nonsense," you're correct. We started using bunk around the turn of the 20th century. (It derived, via bunkum, from a remark made by a congressman from Buncombe County, North Carolina.) Within a couple of decades, debunk was first used in print for the act of taking the bunk out of something. There are plenty of synonyms for debunk, including disprove, rebut, refute, and the somewhat rarer confute. Even falsify can mean "to prove something false," in addition to "to make something false." Debunk itself often suggests that something is not merely untrue but also a sham; one can simply disprove a myth, but if it is debunked, the implication is that it was a grossly exaggerated or foolish claim.
"Illusionists and comedians Penn and Teller have made a career out of pulling back the curtain, whether to reveal the methods magicians employ in their tricks or to debunk pseudoscientific claptrap on their former television series." — Marc Mohan, The Oregonian, 7 Mar. 2014
"The show tells great stories, but it's also devoted to helping you debunk fantastical ones. Its recurring 'Skeptic Check' feature deflates pseudoscientific claims and conspiracy theories." — Erin Blakemore, The Washington Post, 26 June 2018
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