Printable Version
Pronunciation: hng-kr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: (Slang) To moderately desire, to want; to long for.

Notes: Today's Good Word is an intransitive verb, which means that you cannot hanker anything. Rather, like most intransitive verbs, hanker must be used with a preposition, in this case for or after: we hanker for or after something. Even though it is a borrowing (see Word History), this word behaves like a native English verb: hankers, hankered, hankering, with the last serving also as the noun (to have a hankering for).

In Play: Hankering implies a moderate desire: "I can eat broccoli, but I don't hanker for any right now." While this word does not imply a strong or persistent desire, we can make it into one with the right modifiers: "I could still get into my high school bikini if I didn't have this chronic hankering for chocolate ice cream."

Word History: Today's slang word appears to have come from a Dutch dialectal verb, hankeren, with the same meaning. The Proto-Indo-European root underlying it is konk-/kenk "to hang", also the source of English hang and hinge. The meaning shift from hang to hanker might have come by way of the concept "to have a hang-up", though a hang-up is a much stronger desire than a hankering. This root turns up most frequently in Germanic languages like German, Dutch, and English, but there is evidence of it in Latin cunctari "to delay", the origin of English cunctation "delay, procrastination". (I am sure we have no hankering to delay expressing our gratitude to Tonia Koularia, author of Aerobic Poetry, for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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