Definition of humbug in English:


nounPlural humbugs

  • 1mass noun Deceptive or false talk or behaviour.

    ‘his comments are sheer humbug’
    • ‘He said: ‘It's definitely a case of humbug on the council's part.’’
    • ‘I can see in their teachings nothing but humbug, untainted by any trace of truth.’
    • ‘Some environmentalists agree, but many of us think it's dangerous humbug.’
    • ‘This obesity debate is full of humbug and denial.’
    • ‘It would be humbug to pretend that authors at literary festivals have their minds on higher things than selling books.’
    hypocrisy, hypocritical behaviour, hypocritical talk, sanctimoniousness, posturing, cant, empty talk
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    1. 1.1count noun A hypocrite.
      ‘you see what a humbug I am’
      • ‘Is he a journalist for whom the principles of his profession override everything else, or is he a complete humbug who has lied to protect a source of information for a story which led to him winning an award for journalism?’
      • ‘From most of the preachers and all the humbugs they expect nothing else.’
      • ‘He shows no signs of worry that the company he keeps may mark him as a stonking humbug.’
      • ‘Our mean-minded monarchists really are a bunch of humourless humbugs.’
      hypocrite, hypocritical person, plaster saint, whited sepulchre
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  • 2British A boiled sweet, especially one flavoured with peppermint.

    • ‘The best buys include coffee beans, chocolate, mint humbugs and, of course, clotted cream shortbread.’
    • ‘As part of her enterprise she shipped nostalgic English confection like humbugs and aniseed balls, to Navy men, tossing on the high seas.’
    • ‘Pulled candy can be made from a plain sugar syrup, as in humbugs.’
    • ‘Aniseed balls originated as digestifs; humbugs developed from medieval cold cures; liquorice was thought good for coughs.’
    • ‘With coffee and humbugs, lunch tends to drift well into tea-time.’

verbhumbugged, humbugs, humbugging

[with object]
  • 1Deceive; trick.

    ‘poor Dave is easily humbugged’
    • ‘Bad information and bad guesses occasionally humbugged both, which they overcame by determination and the fighting qualities of their forces.’
    deceive, trick, delude, mislead, fool, hoodwink, dupe, hoax, take in, beguile, bamboozle, gull, cheat
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    1. 1.1dated no object Act like a fraud.
      ‘she was always ready to help him, provided he didn't humbug’


  • bah humbug!

    • Used to express grumpy dislike of something generally regarded as enjoyable, in particular Christmas.

      ‘Christmas is looming. Bah humbug!’
      ‘Bah humbug to him. In some places Christmas is still a magical time of year’
      • ‘We really like the Christmas cards, with simple playful messages that will raise a smile on even the most "bah, humbug" of faces.’
      • ‘Tacky winter wonderlands, lame Father Christmases and try-hard TV ads; bah, humbug, indeed.’
      • ‘In a world where taking someone out to a movie can get expensive, the whole idea makes a skinflint want to say, "Bah, humbug!"’
      • ‘Whether it's crafty gift ideas or online bargains, there are plenty of ways to cut back on costs without feeling all bah, humbug.’
      • ‘I say bah humbug to you people who condemn them building it.’
      • ‘Sentimentalists will moan that the TV has replaced the traditional fireplace as the focus of family attention over the holidays, but we say bah, humbug to that.’
      • ‘With most people trying to tighten their belts, the cost of everything can leave you feeling a bit bah, humbug before you've even seen your first baubles.’
      • ‘I hate to come across as bah, humbug, but I don't find her funny, either.’
      • ‘It was almost a "bah, humbug" moment when a group of Christmas carolers were turned away by police at the station this week.’
      • ‘If they stop giving aid to countries that neither need it nor want it, you and I won't have to fork out our hard earned cash bah, humbug!’


Mid 18th century (in the senses ‘hoax, trick’ and ‘deceiver’): of unknown origin.