verb (used with object), mugged, mug·ging.

to assault or menace, especially with the intention of robbery.
Slang. to photograph (a person), especially in compliance with an official or legal requirement.

verb (used without object), mugged, mug·ging.

Slang. to grimace; exaggerate a facial expression, as in acting.

Origin of mug

1560–70; probably < Scandinavian; compare Swedish mugg, Norwegian, Danish mugge drinking cup; sense “face” apparently transferred from cups adorned with grotesque faces; sense “to assault” from earlier pugilistic slang “to strike in the face, fight”
Can be confusedburglarize mug rip off rob steal (see synonym study at rob) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mug

Contemporary Examples of mug

Historical Examples of mug

  • Here, Cyrus, you reach me down your mug—ain't them your shavin' things up there?

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • I suppose it was that picture with the mug and the clay pipe.

    Jan and Her Job

    L. Allen Harker

  • The mug shots were stuck on the card, arrest details and such inserted.

    Arm of the Law

    Harry Harrison

  • I don't care a hang; but there will be some fun when he shows his mug to-morrow.


    Joseph Conrad

  • A mug of mulled claret for a nightcap, and a good sleep, will set you all right.


    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for mug




a drinking vessel with a handle, usually cylindrical and made of earthenware
Also called: mugful the quantity held by a mug or its contents

Word Origin for mug

C16: probably from Scandinavian; compare Swedish mugg




slang a person's face or mouthget your ugly mug out of here!
slang a grimace
British slang a gullible person, esp one who is swindled easily
a mug's game a worthless activity

verb mugs, mugging or mugged

(tr) informal to attack or rob (someone) violently
(intr) British slang to pull faces or overact, esp in front of a camera
See also mug up

Word Origin for mug

C18: perhaps from mug 1, since drinking vessels were sometimes modelled into the likeness of a face
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 mug

"drinking vessel," 1560s, "bowl, pot, jug," of unknown origin, perhaps from Scandinavian (cf. Swedish mugg "mug, jug," Norwegian mugge "pitcher, open can for warm drinks"), or Low German mokke, mukke "mug," also of unknown origin.


"a person's face," 1708, possibly from mug (n.1), on notion of drinking mugs shaped like grotesque faces. Sense of "portrait or photograph in police records (e.g. mug shot, 1950) had emerged by 1887. Hence, also, "a person" (especially "a criminal"), 1890.


"to beat up," 1818, originally "to strike the face" (in pugilism), from mug (n.2). The general meaning "attack" is first attested 1846, and "attack to rob" is from 1864. Perhaps influenced by thieves' slang mug "dupe, fool, sucker" (1851). Related: Mugged; mugging.


"make exaggerated facial expressions," 1855, originally theatrical slang, from mug (n.2). Related: Mugged; mugging.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper