mugwump

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

From an Algonquian term, probably Massachusett mugquomp (important (male) person).

Folk etymology reinterpreted it as referring to a person who sat on the fence with mug ("face") one one side and wump ("rump") on the other, which influenced political cartoons during the 1884 U.S. presidential election.

Noun[edit]

mugwump (plural mugwumps)

  1. (US) An independent neutral politician, especially in reference to the 1884 U.S. presidential election.
  2. (colloquial) An aloof or inconsequential person.
    • 1935, George Goodchild, chapter 1, Death on the Centre Court:
      “Anthea hasn't a notion in her head but to vamp a lot of silly mugwumps. She's set her heart on that tennis bloke [] whom the papers are making such a fuss about.”

Derived terms[edit]