Definition of MacGuffin
: an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance
Did You Know?
The first person to use MacGuffin as a word for a plot device was Alfred Hitchcock. He borrowed it from an old shaggy-dog story in which some passengers on a train interrogate a fellow passenger carrying a large, strange-looking package. The fellow says the package contains a MacGuffin, which, he explains, is used to catch tigers in the Scottish Highlands. When the group protests that there are no tigers in the Highlands, the passenger replies, "Well, then, this must not be a MacGuffin." Hitchcock apparently appreciated the way the mysterious package holds the audience’s attention and builds suspense. He recognized that an audience anticipating a solution to a mystery will continue to follow the story even if the initial interest-grabber turns out to be irrelevant.
Variants of macguffin
Origin of macguffin
coined by Alfred Hitchcock
First Known Use: circa 1939
Learn More about macguffin
Britannica English: Translation of "MacGuffin" for Arabic speakers
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up MacGuffin? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).