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mah-jongg

or mah-jong

[mah-jawng, -jong, -zhawng, -zhong]
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noun
  1. a game of Chinese origin usually played by four persons with 144 dominolike pieces or tiles marked in suits, counters, and dice, the object being to build a winning combination of pieces.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to win a game of mah-jongg.
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Origin of mah-jongg

1920–25; < dialectal Chinese; compare Guangdong dial. màh-jéuk, Chinese máquè literally, sparrow (depicted on the first tile of a set), equivalent to hemp + què bird
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Word Origin and History for mahjong

mah-jongg

n.

1922, from dialectal Chinese (Shanghai) ma chiang, name of the game, literally "sparrows," from ma "hemp" + chiang "little birds." The game so called from the design of the pieces. It had a vogue in Europe and the U.S. in the 1920s and for a time threatened to supplant bridge in popularity.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper