Origin of hugger-mugger

1520–30; earlier hucker-mucker, rhyming compound based on mucker, Middle English mokeren to hoard
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hugger-mugger

Historical Examples of hugger-mugger

  • Let alone his meals being all hugger-mugger and comfortless.

    Mary Barton

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

  • Muddle flies before it, and hugger-mugger becomes a thing unknown.


    Samuel Smiles

  • Mr Bethany tossed the hugger-mugger of pamphlets across the table.

    The Return

    Walter de la Mare

  • The trouble was his “hugger-mugger” management, as Carlyle expressed it.

  • All that set you were brought up in—why, one only had to look at them to see what a hugger-mugger way they probably lived.


    Elisabeth von Arnim

British Dictionary definitions for hugger-mugger



rare secrecy

adjective, adverb archaic

with secrecy
in confusion

verb obsolete

(tr) to keep secret
(intr) to act secretly

Word Origin for hugger-mugger

C16: of uncertain origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for hugger-mugger

also huggermugger, "secretly," 1520s, one of a number of similar-sounding reduplicated words in use around this time and meaning much the same thing, including hucker-mucker, which may be the original of the bunch if the root is, as some think, Middle English mukre "to hoard up, conceal." Also cf. Middle English hukmuck, late 15c., name of some sort of device for cleansing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper