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From mam (of obscure origin) +‎ -ock (diminutive suffix).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈmamək/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈmæmək/, /ˈmɑmək/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: (US) -æmək


mammock (plural mammocks)

  1. (obsolete outside dialects) A shapeless piece; a fragment.
    • 1600, John Day, The Blind Beggar of Bednal-Green:
      "Can. Let me be torn into mammocks with wild Bears if I make not a gallemaufry of thy heart"
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, chapter 12, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book II, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], →OCLC:
      The bird liveth by the scraps, and feedeth upon the leavings of that monster, who gently receiveth him into his mouth, and suffers him to pecke his jawes and teeth for such mamockes [translating morceaux] of flesh as sticke betweene them [].
    • 1819, Walter Scott, Ivanhoe:
      "Then, by St. Thomas of Canterbury," replied Gurth, "we will have the castle, should we tear it down with our hands!" / "We have nothing else to tear it with," replied Wamba; "but mine are scarce fit to make mammocks of freestone and mortar."


mammock (third-person singular simple present mammocks, present participle mammocking, simple past and past participle mammocked)

  1. (obsolete outside dialects, chiefly North Carolina, transitive) To tear to pieces.
    • c. 1608–1609 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedy of Coriolanus”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, (please specify the act number in uppercase Roman numerals, and the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals):
      I saw him run after a gilded Butterfly, & when he caught it, he let it go againe, and after it againe, and ouer and ouer he comes, and vp againe: catcht it again: or whether his fall enrag'd him, or how 'twas, hee did so set his teeth, and teare it. Oh, I warrant how he mammockt it.
    • 1641, John Milton, Of Reformation:
      to keep off the profane touch of the Laicks, whilst the obscene, and surfeted Priest scruples not to paw, and mammock the sacramentall bread, as familiarly as his Tavern Bisket
    • 1987, Dutch Quarterly Review of Anglo-American Letters: DQR, page 104:
      Yet, in the meaning of presumptuous, "bold" could reveal the poet's ambivalence, since in their impudence the navvies took liberties with nature by mammocking it. Another reservation could be the implied contrast with Harry []
    • 2015, Tina Packer, Women of Will: Following the Feminine in Shakespeare's Plays, page 244:
      However, his own son has been pulling wings off butterflies, torturing them, mammocking them in his teeth, letting them go, capturing them again, mammocking them, and so on.
    • 2020, Bradley W. Wright, Enigma Variations:
      I smiled at her and she smiled back, her mouth sticky with strawberry jam from a piece of toast she was mammocking.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In use with varying pronunciation and spelling in tidewater North Carolina among at least the Lumbee and Ocracoke Islanders.

Related terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • North Carolina Folklore (1961), volumes 9-14, page 15
    mommick : vb. (B, W; WIR, mammock) Tear up or damage something
  • Hilda Jaffe, The Speech of the Central Coast of North Carolina (1965), pages 18-19:
    [] [mɑ məkt] up the beach, or tell a child to stotp momacking the cat. The Oxford English Dictionary lists it as mammock, pronounced "mæ mək," now "chiefly dial.", meaning to break, cut, or tear into fragments or shreds; it is derived from mammock, "arch. and dial.", a scrap, shred, broken or torn piece.