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mumbo jumbo

[muhm-boh juhm-boh]
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noun, plural mum·bo jum·bos.
  1. meaningless incantation or ritual.
  2. senseless or pretentious language, usually designed to obscure an issue, confuse a listener, or the like.
  3. an object of superstitious awe or reverence.
  4. (initial capital letters) the guardian of western Sudan villages symbolized by a masked man who combats evil and punishes women for breaches of tribal laws.
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Origin of mumbo jumbo

First recorded in 1730–40; of disputed orig.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

claptrapdouble-talkgibberishgobbledygookhocus-pocushogwashobscuration

Examples from the Web for mumbo jumbo

Historical Examples

  • Full of mumbo-jumbo about "inner-directed" and "outer-directed" personalities.

    This Crowded Earth

    Robert Bloch

  • "Every society has its mumbo-jumbo to keep it in order," said Arkwright.

  • Then that must have been a masquerade, that other time—all that mumbo-jumbo with the Anagrams.

  • Ive no use for your Mumbo-Jumbo trickery and Manchester morality.

    John Brown

    Captain R. W. Campbell

  • They may fill the interval with hoodoo rites, caste divisions or Mumbo-Jumbo worship, as they please.


British Dictionary definitions for mumbo jumbo

mumbo jumbo

noun plural mumbo jumbos
  1. foolish religious reverence, ritual, or incantation
  2. meaningless or unnecessarily complicated language
  3. an object of superstitious awe or reverence
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Word Origin

C18: probably from Mandingo mama dyumbo, name of a tribal god
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 mumbo jumbo

n.

1738, name of an idol supposedly worshipped by certain tribes in Africa; said to be a corruption of words in Mandingo (one reconstructed version is Mama Dyumbo), but no likely source has been found in the languages of the Niger region, to which the original accounts relate. Meaning "big, empty talk" is attested from 1896.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper