many a mickle makes a muckle

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English[edit]

Usage notes[edit]

The original form of the proverb was many a little (or pickle) makes a mickle, mickle meaning “a great amount”. However, it became corrupted to many a mickle makes a muckle, leading to mickle being thought to mean “a small quantity” and muckle to mean “a large quantity”, even though muckle is a variant of mickle and both mean “a large quantity”.[1] The vowel change suggests the influence of ablaut reduplication.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˌmɛni‿ə ˈmɪk(ə)l meɪks‿ə ˈmʌk(ə)l/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˌmɛni‿ə ˈmɪkəl meɪks‿ə ˈmʌkəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌkəl
  • Hyphenation: ma‧ny a mick‧le makes a muck‧le

Proverb[edit]

many a mickle makes a muckle

  1. (chiefly Northern England, Scotland) A lot of small amounts, put together, become a large amount. [from 1793]
    Synonyms: every little helps, little and often fills the purse, many a little makes a mickle, many a pickle makes a mickle, take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves
    • 1793 April 21, George Washington; Worthington Chauncey Ford, compiler and editor, “Letters to Anthony Whiting, 1793”, in The Writings of George Washington, volume XII (1790–1794), New York, N.Y.; London: G[eorge] P[almer] Putnam’s Sons, the Knickerbocker Press, published 1891, OCLC 504632864, page 382:
      People are often ruined before they are aware of the danger, by buying everything they think they want, without adverting to a Scotch adage—than which nothing in nature is more true—"that many mickles make a muckle."
      According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this is the first occurrence of the term in print.

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Alan D[urward] Mickle (1953) Many a Mickle, Melbourne, Vic.: F[rank] W[alter] Cheshire, OCLC 18092651, page 12.