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Alternative forms[edit]


Learned borrowing from Old English māþum (treasure, object of value, jewel, ornament, gift), from Proto-Germanic *maiþmaz (present, gift); introduced by J. R. R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings with the conceit that it was a translation of Adûni kast, a word used by Hobbits as a generic name for items which they were unwilling to throw away, but which they had no use for.


mathom (plural mathoms)

  1. A trinket or piece of bric-a-brac; a knick-knack, often used in regifting.
    • 1989, Lewis Turco, The shifting web:
      When the door of the mathom shop is closed and the Inhabitant leaves the print of his footsteps for a moment on the wooden stair, things pause. There is no movement, not even of time. The mathoms listen until, downstairs, carpets and rugs swallow the noises of living, [...]
    • 1994, Elaine St. James, Simplify Your Life:
      When packing, start with treasures such as vases and art objects (of course, these are now going into the mathom box, [...]) ... Now, when special occasions arise at which a gift would be appropriate, I search in our closet for a suitable mathom. I've also let my friends know that they are free to pass on (or possibly fob off) these "treasures" to someone else whenever appropriate.
    • 1999, Stephen R. L. Clark, The Political Animal:
      The first person to put a marker on a piece of land or ancestral mathom and say 'this is mine' was the first owner of capital, the first thief, the first magician.
    • 2000, Karen Sayer, Country cottages: a cultural history:
      Inhabited by large families, smials are cluttered, full of 'mathoms' (gifts and artefacts that can never be thrown out, for sentimental, practical or thrifty reasons), throw-backs to the ancient English hall-house, built of sticks rather than bricks.
    • 2003, Ralph C. Wood, The Gospel According to Tolkien:
      They store seemingly useless articles for future use, calling their collected stuff mathom. Far from being "junk" that we would discard, these leftovers are precious matter to the hobbits, for the word mathom means "treasure" in Anglo-Saxon.
    • 2006, Gail Carson Levine, Writing magic:
      A mathom is an object you don't want but can't stand to give away or throw away. Do you have a mathom? Most of us do.
    • 2007, Sheila Collingwood-Whittick, The Pain of Unbelonging:
      They turned out to be the same sort of detritus as everything else. Junk and mathoms and useless geegaws.