Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Disorderly confusion; muddle.
  • n. Secrecy; concealment.
  • adj. Disorderly; jumbled.
  • adj. Secret; clandestine.
  • transitive v. To keep secret; conceal.
  • intransitive v. To act in a secretive manner.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Secrecy.
  • n. Disorder.
  • adj. Secret, clandestine.
  • adj. Disorderly, chaotic, confused.
  • adv. Secretly.
  • adv. Confusedly, in a muddle.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Secret; clandestine; sly.
  • adj. Confused; disorderly; slovenly; mean.
  • n. Privacy; secrecy. Commonly in the phrase in hugger-mugger, with haste and secrecy.
  • n. Confusion; disorder.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Privacy; secrecy.
  • n. In confusion; with slovenliness.
  • Clandestine; sly; underhanded.
  • Confused; disorderly; slovenly: as, he works in a very hugger-mugger fashion.
  • To hush; smother.
  • To take secret counsel; proceed clandestinely.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. in utter disorder
  • adv. in secrecy
  • n. a state of confusion
  • adj. conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods
  • v. act stealthily or secretively

Etymologies

Origin unknown.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
The origin of hugger-mugger is unknown; it is perhaps from Anglo-Irish cuggermugger, "a whispering, a low-voiced gossiping," from Irish cogair!, "whisper!". Compare Swedish mjugg. (dictionary.com) (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But the rest are all hugger-mugger, and I like them that way.

    EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Delia Sherman and Christopher Barzak on Interfictions 2

  • The hugger-mugger squalor endured by the planet's traveling billions.

    Planes, Trains And Miseries

  • Brown may have tried to sign this wretched Treaty hugger-mugger back in December, out of sight and out of mind, but the truth of the matter is that he is in fact an EU enthusiast who has played a leading part in not just the drawing up of this Treaty but also the gerrymander that is seeing it through the process of ratification.

    Archive 2008-06-15

  • For we shall bruit his cowardice to the world if he signs us into serfdom hugger-mugger but make his face the face of the Treaty if he lets us see him do it.

    Now You See Macavity, Now You Don't

  • There is nothing more repetitive and ritualized than the smooth management of a household; both forms and households can get claustrophobic; heaven turns to mock-heaven and hell into a farcical hell, and suddenly the heart goes all hugger-mugger (a Shakespearean hapax — hello Alicia!).

    H is for House : Ange Mlinko : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

  • But people looking for a nice little historical hugger-mugger, with arriviste royalty and Victorian train schedules aplenty, will have a pleasant evening with it, I daresay.

    Kenneth Hite's Journal

  • I tend to enjoy single-issue stories in between longer arcs, and after all the psychological hugger-mugger, its nice to see Aquaman take on a giant sea creature.

    Archive 2008-07-01

  • He is then assisted by Young Justice, who also make a guest-appearance Red Tornado explains they were all watching TV, and all this hugger-mugger interrupted regular programming, so...

    Archive 2008-12-01

  • While some degree of political hugger-mugger is unavoidable in a game like this, the Jersey Devil takes no position on health care policy, and the Lemures care nothing about Iraq.

    Kenneth Hite's Journal

  • The mystery is actually a rather good one, with enough misdirection and hugger-mugger to delight any fan of Agatha Christie, although the tone is rather more Josephine Tey or Dorothy Sayers all to the good, in my book.

    Kenneth Hite's Journal

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