The noun is borrowed from Massachusett mugquomp, mummugquomp (“war leader”). Folk etymology reinterpreted it as referring to a person who sat on the fence with their mug (“face”) on one side and “wump” (“rump”) on the other, which influenced political cartoons during the 1884 United States presidential election.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈmʌɡwʌmp/
Audio (RP) (file)
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈmʌɡˌwʌmp/, [ˈməɡˌwəmp]
- Hyphenation: mug‧wump
- (chiefly humorous) A (male) leader; an important (male) person.
- (historical) A member of the Republican Party who declined to support the party's nominee James G. Blaine (1830–1893) during the 1884 United States presidential election, believing him to be corrupt, and instead supported the Democratic Party's candidate Grover Cleveland (1837–1908).
- (by extension) A person who purports to stay aloof from party politics.
- 1901 May, Winston Churchill, “A Strange Meeting”, in The Crisis, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., OCLC 757330, book III, page 427:
- The story of the capture of Vicksburg is the old, old story of failure turned into success, by which man is made immortal. It involves the history of a general who never retraced his steps, who cared neither for mugwump murmurs nor political cabals, who took both blame and praise with equanimity.
- 1901–1903, [George] Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman. A Comedy and a Philosophy, Westminster [London]: Archibald Constable & Co., published 1903, OCLC 899619, Act III, page 116:
- After them came the politician, who said there was only one purpose in Nature, and that was to get him into parliament. I told him I did not care whether he got into parliament or not; so he called me Mugwump and went his way.
- (by extension) One who switches from supporting one political party to another, especially for personal benefit.
- (by extension, colloquial, somewhat derogatory) A person who stays neutral or non-committal; a fence sitter; also, a person who maintains an aloof and often self-important demeanour.
- (intransitive) To behave like a mugwump.
- (intransitive) To purport to stay aloof and independent, especially from party politics.