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

  • noun A person who acts independently or remains neutral, especially in politics.
  • noun A Republican who bolted the party in 1884, refusing to support presidential candidate James G. Blaine.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To act like a mugwump; assert one's independence.
  • noun An Indian chief, an Indian leader.
  • noun A person of importance; a man of consequence; a leader.
  • noun Hence— A person who thinks himself of consequence; a self-important man: a humorous or satirical use of the preceding.
  • noun [In a “song” following the above, in the “negro” dialect, the same person is referred to as “ole mug,” and “honest, honest, mugwump coon.”]
  • noun [capitalized] In United States political history, one of the Independent members of the Republican party who in 1884 openly refused to support the nominee (June 6th) of that party for the presidency of the United States, and either voted for the Democratic or the Prohibitionist candidate or abstained from voting.
  • noun In general, an independent.
  • Of or pertaining to a mugwump (in sense 2 ).
  • [See also note following the first quotation under I., 2.]
  • Of or pertaining to a political mugwump (in sense 3 or 4).

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

  • noun Political Cant, U.S. A bolter from the Republican party in the national election of 1884; an Independent.
  • noun A person who is undecided about an issue, especially a political one; a person who takes a neutral stance on an issue; a fence-sitter.

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

  • noun US An independent neutral politician, especially in reference to the 1884 U.S. presidential election.

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

  • noun a neutral or uncommitted person (especially in politics)
  • noun someone who bolted from the Republican Party during the U.S. presidential election of 1884


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

[Massachusett mugguomp, mummugguomp, war leader.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From an Algonquian term, probably Massachusett mugquomp ("important (male) person").



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  • Thanks WeirdNet. Also... a really ugly word.

    January 15, 2008

  • I always got a kick out of it myself. Interesting etymology, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary: "1832, jocular for 'great man, boss,' Amer. Eng., from Algonquian (Natick) mugquomp 'important person,' used since 1884 of Republicans who refused to support James G. Blaine's presidential candidacy, hence 'one who holds himself aloof from party politics.'"

    Sarcasm at its finest. :-)

    January 15, 2008

  • I get words stuck in my head like songs get stuck in others' heads. Mugwump is one of these words because its just so gosh darn fun to say. I picked it up from the Harry Potter books, but I had no idea it was an actual word until recently.

    March 13, 2008

  • I had thought the etymology was because the Republicans crossing party lines to vote for Grover Cleveland had their "mugs" on one side of the fence, and their "wumps" on the other.

    August 13, 2008

  • Now antedated to 1828 in the Middlebury newspaper the Vermont American:

    Before the adoption of any project among the fraternity, a nod of assent was required from the rods of the whole, which was usually not wanting, provided that of the leader, (or Mugwump, as he was technically called,) appeared favorable.

    August 13, 2008

  • Hmm... also a verb, according to OED. Usages:

    1889 N.Y. Tribune 10 Mar., They mugwumped in 1884. 1911 Springfield (Mass.) Weekly Republican 2 Nov. 3 The Bay State voters do not mugwump very deep. 1958 Time 3 Mar. 12 Brossard mugwumped, but the other five members all said no. 1997 New Republic (Electronic ed.) 31 Mar., ‘I'd say they mugwumped—you know, mug on one side of the fence, wump on the other,’ says Dave Purchase.

    August 13, 2008

  • sing gloggalimp, sing gloggalump

    from deep inside the Muggly Wump

    May 16, 2009

  • Sound like a Wergle Flomp entry.

    May 17, 2009

  • My dad always used "mugwump" as a name for a bird he couldn't identify! I was very surprised to find the origin. I wonder if this use was just peculiar to our family?

    December 31, 2014

  • He relishes fanfare and tubthump

    But tepid reactions will bug Trump,

    So fragile his pride

    He cannot abide

    The quiet and wavering mugwump.

    January 24, 2017