mum

1
[ muhm ]
/ mʌm /

adjective

silent; not saying a word: to keep mum.

interjection

say nothing! be silent!

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Idioms for mum

    mum's the word, do not reveal what you know (about something); keep silent: Mum's the word, or the surprise party won't be a surprise.

Origin of mum

1
1350–1400; Middle English momme; imitative

Definition for mum (2 of 6)

mum2

or mumm

[ muhm ]
/ mʌm /

verb (used without object), mummed, mum·ming.

to say “mum”; call for silence.
to act as a mummer.

Origin of mum

2
1350–1400; Middle English mommen, v. use of mum1; compare Middle Dutch mommen to act the mummer's part

Definition for mum (3 of 6)

mum3
[ muhm ]
/ mʌm /

noun

Origin of mum

3
shortened form

Definition for mum (4 of 6)

mum4
[ muhm ]
/ mʌm /

noun Chiefly British.

Origin of mum

4
1815–25; nursery word; see mom

Definition for mum (5 of 6)

mum5
[ muhm ]
/ mʌm /

noun

a strong beer or ale, first made in Brunswick, Germany.

Origin of mum

5
First recorded in 1630–40, mum is from the German word Mumme, said to have been named after the brewer who made it

Definition for mum (6 of 6)

mum6
[ muhm ]
/ mʌm /

noun Chiefly British.

Origin of mum

6
variant of ma'am
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does mum mean?

Mum is an adjective that means keeping quiet. It can also be used by itself to mean Be quiet!

This sense of mum is especially used in the expressions keep mum and mum’s the word. 

In the U.K. and other places, mum is used as a word for mom or madam. It’s also commonly used as a short way of saying chrysanthemum, a type of flower.

Example: Mum’s keeping mum—I can’t get a word out of her!

Where does mum come from?

Mum in the sense of “silent” comes from the Middle English word momme, which is probably imitative of the sound that a closed mouth makes. Go ahead—try it. It sounds like mumbling, right? Well, the word mumble is based on the same word.

Most likely, your mum has told you not to mumble. And she’s probably also told you on many occasions to keep quiet, or keep mum. The idea behind the instruction—and the origin of the word—is that the mouth should be closed. Somewhat relatedly, the word for mother in many languages around the world begins with the m sound, which is also made with the mouth closed (and is one of the first sounds babies learn how to make).

When used to mean “madam,” mum is a variation of ma’am, which is a shortening of madam.

Mum can also be used as a verb meaning to “act as a mummer,” a kind of costumed performer.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to mum?

  • mums (plural noun, as in the flowers)
  • mummy (equivalent to mommy)

What are some synonyms for mum?

What are some words that share a root or word element with mum

What are some words that often get used in discussing mum?

 

How is  mum used in real life?

Mum is often used in a critical way to suggest a suspicious silence. It frequently gets used in political contexts.

 

 

Try using mum!

Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite) of mum?

A. quiet
B. loud
C. silent

Example sentences from the Web for mum

British Dictionary definitions for mum (1 of 4)

mum1
/ (mʌm) /

noun

mainly British an informal word for mother 1

Word Origin for mum

C19: a child's word

British Dictionary definitions for mum (2 of 4)

mum2
/ (mʌm) /

adjective

keeping information to oneself; silent

noun

mum's the word silence or secrecy is to be observed

Word Origin for mum

C14: suggestive of closed lips

British Dictionary definitions for mum (3 of 4)

mum3

mumm

/ (mʌm) /

verb mums, mumming or mummed

(intr) to act in a mummer's play

Word Origin for mum

C16: verbal use of mum ²

British Dictionary definitions for mum (4 of 4)

mum4
/ (mʌm) /

noun

British obsolete a type of beer made from cereals, beans, etc

Word Origin for mum

C17: from German Mumme, perhaps from the name of its original brewer
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