maud·​lin ˈmȯd-lən How to pronounce maudlin (audio)
: drunk enough to be emotionally silly
a mob of maudlin rummies … sing hymnsJoseph Mitchell
would crack open another beer and become maudlinPatrick Moore
: weakly and effusively sentimental
maudlin expressions of regret

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The history of maudlin is connected both to the Bible and the barroom. The biblical Mary Magdalene is often (though some say mistakenly) identified with the weeping sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears to repent for her sins. This association led to the frequent depiction of Mary Magdalene as a weeping penitent, and even the name Magdalene came to suggest teary emotion to many English speakers. It was then that maudlin, an alteration of Magdalene, appeared in the English phrase “maudlin drunk” in the 16th century, describing a weepy, drunken state. Nowadays, maudlin is used to describe someone or something that expresses sadness or sentimentality in an exaggerated way; however, the “maudlin drunk” meaning was so intoxicating that it stuck around and became the “drunk enough to be emotionally silly” sense still in use today, as in “after a few glasses of port he became quite maudlin.”

Examples of maudlin in a Sentence

He became maudlin and started crying like a child. a maudlin movie about a lovable tramp
Recent Examples on the Web The messy pace — alternately defiant, maudlin, weepy and bombastic — sounds like a country that was working things out within itself but nevertheless remained optimistic and confident about its future. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 14 Feb. 2024 Without ever becoming maudlin or didactic, Glück traces both an epoch and an act of commemorating the dead. Daniel Felsenthal, The New Yorker, 19 Jan. 2024 See all Example Sentences for maudlin 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'maudlin.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


alteration of Mary Magdalene; from her depiction as a weeping penitent

First Known Use

1509, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of maudlin was in 1509


Dictionary Entries Near maudlin

Cite this Entry

“Maudlin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


maud·​lin ˈmȯd-lən How to pronounce maudlin (audio)
: drunk enough to be tearfully silly
: weakly and overly sentimental

Middle English Maudeleyn "Mary Magdalene," from early French Madeleine (same meaning), from Latin Magdalene (same meaning), from Greek Magdalēnē "(Mary) of Magdala (town on the Sea of Galilee)"; so called because Mary was frequently shown in religious paintings as weeping

Word Origin
The word maudlin can be traced back to the name of a town in ancient Palestine, Magdala. But the meaning of maudlin is associated with a person in the Christian Bible. In the Gospels, Mary Magdalene was so called because she was thought to have come from Magdala. She was a devoted follower of Jesus and was present at his crucifixion. Yet her name was not always spelled as it is today. Our modern English translations of the Bible have gone back to the Latin text for the form Magdalene. But in early French, the g dropped out and the word became Madelaine. When the name was taken into Middle English from the early French texts, its form was Maudeleyn and later Maudlin. In the Middle Ages, religious artists painting scenes of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus showed Mary as weeping. In time her name became an adjective for a tearful show of emotion and later especially for an exaggerated display of emotion from a drunken person.

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