[myoo-choo-uh l]


possessed, experienced, performed, etc., by each of two or more with respect to the other; reciprocal: to have mutual respect.
having the same relation each toward the other: to be mutual enemies.
of or relating to each of two or more; held in common; shared: mutual interests.
having or pertaining to a form of corporate organization in which there are no stockholders, and in which profits, losses, expenses, etc., are shared by members in proportion to the business each transacts with the company: a mutual company.See also mutual insurance.


Informal. a mutual fund.

Origin of mutual

1470–80; < Middle French mutuel < Latin mūtu(us) mutual, reciprocal (mūt(āre) to change (see mutate) + -uus deverbal adj. suffix) + Middle French -el (< Latin -ālis) -al1
Related formsmu·tu·al·ly, adverbnon·mu·tu·al, adjectivenon·mu·tu·al·ly, adverbqua·si-mu·tu·al, adjectivequa·si-mu·tu·al·ly, adverbtrans·mu·tu·al, adjectivetrans·mu·tu·al·ly, adverbun·mu·tu·al, adjectiveun·mu·tu·al·ly, adverb
Can be confusedmutual reciprocal (see synonym study at the current entry)common mutual reciprocal (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonym study

1. Mutual, reciprocal agree in the idea of an exchange or balance between two or more persons or groups. Mutual indicates an exchange of a feeling, obligation, etc., between two or more people, or an interchange of some kind between persons or things: mutual esteem; in mutual agreement. Reciprocal indicates a relation in which one act, thing, feeling, etc., balances or is given in return for another: reciprocal promises or favors.

Usage note

The earliest (15th century) and still a current meaning of mutual is “reciprocal,” specifying the relation of two or more persons or things to each other: Their admiration is mutual. Teachers and students sometimes suffer from a mutual misunderstanding. Mutual soon developed the sense of “having in common, shared”: Their mutual objective is peace. This latter sense has been in use since the 16th century and is entirely standard. It is occasionally criticized, not on the grounds of ambiguity but on the grounds that the later sense development is somehow wrong. Mutual in the sense of “shared” may have been encouraged by the title of Charles Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend (1864–65), but Dickens was not the innovator. The fact that common also has the sense “ordinary, unexceptional” and “coarse, vulgar” may have contributed to the use of mutual instead of common in designating a shared friend. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mutual

Contemporary Examples of mutual

Historical Examples of mutual

British Dictionary definitions for mutual



experienced or expressed by each of two or more people or groups about the other; reciprocalmutual distrust
common to or shared by both or all of two or more partiesa mutual friend; mutual interests
denoting an insurance company, etc, in which the policyholders share the profits and expenses and there are no shareholders
Derived Formsmutuality (ˌmjuːtjʊˈælɪtɪ) or mutualness, nounmutually, adverb

Word Origin for mutual

C15: from Old French mutuel, from Latin mūtuus reciprocal (originally: borrowed); related to mūtāre to change


The use of mutual to mean common to or shared by two or more parties was formerly considered incorrect, but is now acceptable. Tautologous use of mutual should be avoided: cooperation (not mutual cooperation) between the two countries
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 mutual

late 15c., originally of feelings, from Middle French mutuel (14c.), from Latin mutuus "reciprocal, done in exchange," from PIE root *mei- "to change, exchange" (see mutable).

The essence of its meaning is that it involves the relation x is or does to y as y to x; & not the relation, x is or does to z as y to z. [Fowler]

Mutual Admiration Society (1851) seems to have been coined by Thoreau. Mutual fund is recorded from 1950. The Cold War's mutual assured destruction attested from 1966. (Assured destruction was an early 1960s term in U.S. military policy circles in reference to nuclear weapons as a deterrent, popularized c.1964 by Robert McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense under Lyndon Johnson, e.g. statement before House Armed Services Committee, Feb. 18, 1965; the mutual perhaps first added by Donald Brennan, conservative defense analyst and a public critic of the policy, who also noted the acronym MAD.)


short for mutual fund, 1971; see mutual.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper