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mayo

[ mey-oh ]
/ ˈmeɪ oʊ /
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noun Informal.
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Origin of mayo

By shortening; cf. -o

Other definitions for mayo (2 of 2)

Mayo
[ mey-oh ]
/ ˈmeɪ oʊ /

noun
Charles Horace, 1865–1939, and his brother William James, 1861–1939, U.S. surgeons.
a county in NW Connaught province, in the NW Republic of Ireland. 2,084 sq. mi. (5,400 sq. km). County seat: Castlebar.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

ABOUT THIS WORD

What else does mayo mean?

Typically, mayo is short for mayonnaise, a classic condiment made of oil, vinegar, and egg yolks.

When not, it can also be used as offensive language against white people or a slang term for drugs.

Content warning: the following article deals with content related to illicit drugs and offensive and disparaging language.

Where did the term mayo come from?

It’s not exactly clear where mayonnaise comes from or how it got its name. An early 19th-century traveler to Paris mentions a chicken dish containing mayonnaise but doesn’t give the recipe. It’s one of the earliest attestations we have to the condiment.

Whatever its ultimate origin, mayonnaise is recorded in English as early as 1815 as borrowed from French. The condiment quickly became popular around the world. By 1930, mayonnaise was informally shortened to mayo, and is commonly referred to as such today.

Mayo began being used as a slang for drugs as early as the 1940s, becoming commonplace by the 1990s–particularly in reference to cocaine but also heroin or morphine. The nickname may have been inspired by the white color of the condiment, but it’s also a possible corruption of the name yayo, a Latin American term for cocaine.

Mayo, as slang for drugs, also appears in hip-hop songs from the 1990s. This expression appears to have largely dropped out of use by the early 2000s, however. By at least 2000, mayonnaise–occasionally shortened to mayo–emerged as offensive language against white people, presumably a riff on the condiment’s color.

Who uses the term mayo?

Calling mayonnaise mayo is very widespread in the English-speaking world.

Occasionally, mayo is still used as slang for cocaine or heroin.

Mayo, when used as a disparaging term for white people, is most common in Black American slang, although its use is not extremely widespread.

Sometimes it’s used as an adjective in conjunction with other words, such as mayo ho, in order to create the perfect, sandwich-ready burn.

More examples of mayo:

“The sales data that the Wall Street Journal relied upon only took egg-based mayo into consideration, while ignoring the explosion in egg-free mayo.”
—Ari Levaux, Shepherd Express, December 2018

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use mayo in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for mayo (1 of 2)

Mayo1
/ (ˈmeɪəʊ) /

noun
a county of NW Republic of Ireland, in NW Connacht province, on the Atlantic: has many offshore islands and several large lakes. County town: Castlebar. Pop: 117 446 (2002). Area: 5397 sq km (2084 sq miles)

British Dictionary definitions for mayo (2 of 2)

Mayo2
/ (ˈmeɪəʊ) /

noun
a family of US medical practitioners. They pioneered group practice and established (1903) the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Foremost among them were William Worrall Mayo (1819–1911), his sons William James Mayo (1861–1939) and Charles Horace Mayo (1865–1939), and Charles's son, Charles William Mayo (1898–1968)
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

Medical definitions for mayo

Mayo
[ māō ]
William James 1861-1939

American surgeon who with his brother, Charles Horace Mayo (1865-1939), founded the Mayo Clinic, a renowned medical center in Rochester, Minnesota.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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