mawk·​ish | \ ˈmȯ-kish How to pronounce mawkish (audio) \

Definition of mawkish

1 : lacking flavor or having an unpleasant taste
2 : exaggeratedly or childishly emotional a mawkish love story mawkish poetry

Other Words from mawkish

mawkishly adverb
mawkishness noun

The Squirming Origins of Mawkish

The etymology of mawkish really opens up a can of worms—or, more properly, maggots. The first part of mawkish derives from Middle English mawke, which means "maggot." Mawke, in turn, developed from the Old Norse word mathkr, which had the same meaning as its descendant. The majority of English speakers eventually eschewed the word's dipteran implications (mawk still means "maggot" in some dialects of British English), and began using it figuratively instead. As language writer Ivor Brown put it in his 1947 book Say the Word, "Time has treated 'mawkish' gently: the wormy stench and corruption of its primal state were forgotten and 'mawkish' became sickly in a weak sort of way instead of repulsive and revolting."

Examples of mawkish in a Sentence

a mawkish plea for donations to the charity
Recent Examples on the Web Sin City trash whiplashes with mawkish cute-kid sensitivity. Darren Franich,, 3 Jan. 2022 But the show made the relationship between Deborah and Ava spiky and unpredictable, touching without ever being mawkish, and revealing about the ways both women had to adapt to a show business world that judges females harshly. oregonlive, 23 Dec. 2021 This may sound mawkish—but how much of our inner life is first learned through music? The New Yorker, 6 Dec. 2021 Even when the season slows down a bit, Sudeikis’ vulnerability is touching, without ever being mawkish. oregonlive, 20 July 2021 In most hands, this business of the mother-figure who sacrifices all for a child would be mawkish. Rumaan Alam, The New Republic, 12 Apr. 2021 And so much of what concerned me as important in the earlier pages of my diary now seems mawkish, trivial or beneath notice. Paul Theroux, New York Times, 30 Mar. 2020 This finale suggests a mawkish yet useful fact: that the cure for perfectionism is love. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 26 Feb. 2020 Despite multifaceted characters and convincing performances (particularly from Cosio and Soria), Lemus and Chávez’s dialogue sometimes feels preachy, mawkish or on-the-nose. Judy Berman, Time, 13 Feb. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mawkish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of mawkish

circa 1697, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mawkish

Middle English mawke maggot, probably from Old Norse mathkr — more at maggot

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The first known use of mawkish was circa 1697

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Cite this Entry

“Mawkish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on mawkish

Nglish: Translation of mawkish for Spanish Speakers


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