from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Disorderly confusion; muddle.
  • noun Secrecy; concealment.
  • adjective Disorderly; jumbled.
  • adjective Secret; clandestine.
  • intransitive verb To keep secret; conceal.
  • intransitive verb To act in a secretive manner.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun archaic Secrecy.
  • noun Disorder.
  • adjective Secret, clandestine.
  • adjective Disorderly, chaotic, confused.
  • adverb Secretly.
  • adverb Confusedly, in a muddle.

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

  • verb act stealthily or secretively
  • adjective in utter disorder
  • adverb in secrecy
  • noun a state of confusion
  • adjective conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods


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

[Origin unknown.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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. (


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word hugger-mugger.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • In secret; in a clandestine manner.

    December 9, 2008

  • Etymology: Probably from the Irish (Gaelic) expression "cogar mogar" with the same meaning

    April 5, 2011

  • If this word comes from Irish Gaelic then I'm a Dutchman's uncle.

    April 6, 2011

  • Same context: A once-famous fun-filled foot-long interspecies.

    March 23, 2013

  • To sneak up on people, then jump out and hug them.

    August 9, 2016

  • And run away.

    August 9, 2016