Press "Enter" to skip to content

Muggins: Meaning, origin, and examples

Introducing Linguaphilia: Muggins

It’s pretty hard to decide what to write your first post about. But I figure, what better way to introduce myself than to talk about muggins here?

Definition of muggins

Muggins’ is a particularly British word, though you might hear it from most English speakers. Nobody’s completely sure of its origin, but most people’s best guess is that it came from a real family name that sounded like ‘mug’ and just sounded funny.

Muggins has appeared in film and TV a few times. The feature image for this post is from the British TV series The IT Crowd, series 1 episode 4, The Red Door, where Moss refers to himself as ‘muggins here’. In the American-made 2003 Christmas movie Elf, Will Ferrel’s character calls himself a “cotton-headed ninny-muggins,” which sounds funny to Americans because the word is so typically British, and is rarely heard in American English.

It’s used (usually humorously, sometimes insultingly) to refer to a person as foolish or gullible, and usually the speaker is referring to themselves. But it’s not used in a sentence like a normal adjective or noun.

Usage and examples

Muggins’ is used in a sentence like you would use a proper noun, though it isn’t one. Essentially, you use it as if it’s the name of the person you’re referring to. You could use it to refer to yourself, to the person you’re speaking to, or to a third person, usually when that person can hear you.

When the speaker means to refer to themselves, it is often used as the phrase ‘muggins here’, but it would normally be obvious who the speaker means through context and body language. If it doesn’t seem obvious who the speaker means, then they probably mean themselves.

So how would you use it in a conversation?

Referring to yourself:

Muggins here managed to leave the house without my keys this morning.”
“I know you want a dog, but it’ll be muggins who ends up having to feed and walk it!”

Referring to the other person:

Them: “I had to stay back at work finishing the reports for the whole team today.”
You: “Good job, muggins.

You: “Hey muggins, your shirt’s on backwards.”

Referring to a third person:

Someone: “This document is full of typos!”
You: “Really? Muggins over there approved it.”

Someone: “Who left the stove on?”
You: “Oh, I think muggins was making his favourite ‘burnt eggs special’.”

As you can see, you never refer to someone as ‘a muggins’, and it’s used in a sentence just like a person’s proper name would be.

There are only a handful of other ways to use muggins, mostly to do with card or domino games. For example, in the card game cribbage, the rules state that if you notice another player miscount their points, you can ‘call muggins’ and claim the difference in points for yourself. This is pretty much the only use of muggins found in American English.

If you have any questions or something to add, muggins here would love it if you left a comment below!

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *