"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Monday, 11 May 2009


GB asked me about the origin of the word hanker on his blog yesterday. I didn't know the answer but I shall share with you all what I discovered:-

The first known appearance of "hanker" dates back to about 1600 in England, and it has been used by the likes of Milton and Thackeray so it has a genuine pedigree.

The origin of "hanker" is a bit obscure, but most authorities have come to the conclusion that it arose as a form of the verb "to hang" and meant "to hang around, to loiter with expectation or longing." Thus, in this original sense, a lovesick swain might "hanker" in the vicinity of his beloved, hoping for an encounter (as in Thomas Hughes, 1859: "I used to hanker round the kitchen, or still-room, or wherever she might happen to be"). By the late 17th century, "hanker" had lost its "loitering" connotation and had settled on its modern meaning of "to long for or crave something."


  1. Ooooo, interesting. We use the word liberally over here. To hanker for something.

  2. Thank you CJ. Much appreciated.