\ ˈmau̇-ˌmau̇ How to pronounce mau-mau (audio) \
mau-maued; mau-mauing; mau-maus

Definition of mau-mau

transitive + intransitive

now often offensive, see usage paragraph below
: to intimidate (someone, such as an official) through hostile confrontation or threats usually for social or political gain Going downtown to mau-mau the bureaucrats got to be the routine practice in San Francisco.— Tom Wolfe

Usage of Mau-Mau

The term mau-mau comes from the name of the Mau Mau, a militant African nationalist movement formed among the Kikuyu people of Kenya in the 1950s to advocate violent resistance to British rule. The English term reflects the historical British version of the actions of the Mau Mau, a version that does not acknowledge the grievances of the Kikuyu or the atrocities committed against them. In current English, mau-mau is used to suggest that a person's efforts and actions stem only from a desire to commit violent acts, or in milder use, to cause disruption or achieve some petty aim. When the term is used of a Black person it is especially likely to be considered offensive.

First Known Use of mau-mau

1970, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mau-mau

Mau Mau, anti-European secret society in colonial Kenya

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The first known use of mau-mau was in 1970

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Cite this Entry

“Mau-mau.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

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