tr.v. de·bunked, de·bunk·ing, de·bunks
To expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of: debunk a supposed miracle drug.
Word History: You can readily see that debunk is constructed from the prefix de-, meaning "to remove," and the word bunk. But what is the origin of the word bunk, denoting the nonsense that is to be removed? Bunk came from a place where much bunk has originated, the United States Congress. During the 16th Congress (1819-1821), Felix Walker, representative from the district in North Carolina including Buncombe County, delivered a particularly pointless speech intended merely to convince his constituency that he was making a difference in Washington. His harried colleagues asked him to desist, but he nattered on despite their protests—he was speaking not to Congress, he explained, but "to Buncombe." Buncombe, respelled bunkum and later shortened to bunk, thus became synonymous with claptrap. The answer to all this bunk came in 1923 when William E. Woodward, a writer with a reputation for giving the blunt facts about respected US institutions, coined the term debunk in a best-selling novel called Bunk.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
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