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From Middle English mouthful, mouth-full, mouthe full, equivalent to mouth +‎ -ful. Compare Dutch mondvol (mouthful), German Mundvoll (mouthful), Danish mundfuld (mouthful), Swedish munfull (mouthful), Icelandic munnfylli (mouthful). Compare also West Frisian mûlfol (mouthful).


mouthful (plural mouthfuls or mouthsful)

  1. The amount that will fit in a mouth.
    He swallowed a mouthful of sea water when he fell in.
  2. (slang) Quite a bit.
    • 1960, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing, chapter VII:
      “Unquestionably his metabolism is unduly susceptible to stresses resulting from the interaction of external excitations,” he said, and Bobbie patted him on the shoulder in a maternal sort of way, a thing I wouldn't have cared to do myself though our relations were, as I have indicated, more cordial than they had been at one time, and told him he had said a mouthful.
  3. Something difficult to pronounce or say.
    “She sells sea shells” is a bit of a mouthful to say.
    • 1960, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing, chapter X:
      “Yes, you may leave this little matter entirely to me, Mr Wooster.” “I wish you'd call me Bertie.” “Certainly, certainly.” “And might I call you Roderick?” “I shall be delighted.” “Or Roddy? Roderick's rather a mouthful.” “Whichever you prefer.”
    • 2010, Alexander Irvine, Iron Man 2: The Junior Novel, page 77
      "Tony, I'm the executive director of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Strategic Homeland Intelligence, Enforcement, and Logistics Division," explained Fury.
      Tony nodded. [] "Want a tip? Fire your namer of things, because that's a mouthful."
  4. A tirade of abusive language (especially in the term “give someone a mouthful”)