We will have to go into hock to buy a house.

What is the origin of the idiom?

  • 1
    Have you looked up the word hock? What did you find out about it? Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 17:54
  • 1
    Hock is a synonym for pawn. A hock shop is a pawnshop, an object that's in hock means it's pawned, and if you're in hock to P then you owe P some money. The origin is Dutch, as @tchrist points out below. Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 17:56
  • General Reference hock from Dutch hok "jail, pen, doghouse, hutch, hovel." Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 18:07

2 Answers 2


The origin of the word is Dutch. The origin of the phrase is American.

Per the OED, the noun hock means:

Etymology: a. Dutch hok hutch, hovel, prison, (slang) credit, debt.

  • a. Phr. in (occas. the) hock: (a). in the act (of gambling); (b). in prison; (c). in pawn; (d). in debt. So occas. out of hock.
  • b. attrib. and Comb., as hock-game (see quot. 1859); hock-shop, a pawnshop.

There is also an associated verb hock, which means pawn.

  • That's odd, because the Dutch word hok actually doesn't mean that at all. It can be shed, shack, kennel, coop, closet, cabin, booth, sty, cot.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 20:39
  • @MrLister Hutch or hovel doesn’t seem too far from cabin or shack, no? I don’t know if the “(slang) credit, debt” is meant to be Dutch slang from some previous era, though.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 22:49

I have found this explanation.

IN HOCK Meaning: Broke; have all of your belongings in a pawn shop Origin: Comes from the Old West. In a common gambling card game called “faro,” “the last card [to be played] was called the hocketty card. It was said to be in hocketty or in hock. When a player bet on a card that ended up in hock he was himself in hock, at risk of losing his bets.” (From The Whole Ball of Wax, by Laurence Urdang).

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