mul·​li·​gan ˈmə-li-gən How to pronounce mulligan (audio)
: a free shot sometimes given a golfer in informal play when the previous shot was poorly played

Examples of mulligan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Think the Pac-12 presidents would like a mulligan on that one? Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, 11 Aug. 2023 Denver Broncos The case for: Calling a mulligan on the Nathaniel Hackett debacle might go a long way toward setting things right in the Rockies. Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA TODAY, 21 June 2023 Who can deny that the Tigers were owed a mulligan of fate after the 2019 NCAA Tournament? Joseph Goodman |, al, 18 Mar. 2023 In essence, this gives bettors a mulligan. Xl Media, cleveland, 28 July 2022 Everyone’s entitled to a mulligan. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 June 2022 Now Brady takes his mulligan. Riley Hamel, USA TODAY, 2 June 2022 Chalk this up to a one-year mulligan. Bruce Jenkins,, 18 Sep. 2020 Does McDermott get a mulligan? Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, 3 Mar. 2021 See More

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

Word History


probably from the name Mulligan

Note: Probably the individual most widely credited as the eponymous initiator of mulligan is David B. Mulligan (1869-1954), a Canadian hotelier and amateur golfer. The coinage is alleged to have taken place while Mulligan was playing at either the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, in the 1930's or at the Country Club of Montreal in Saint-Lambert, Quebec, in the 1920's; for reasons varying according to the account, Mulligan gave himself, or was given, an extra chance when a group began play, which he dubbed a "mulligan." According to another story the source was John A. "Buddy" Mulligan, an attendant at the Essex Fells Country Club in New Jersey in the 1930's, who, when he was called away from his duties to make up a golf foursome, was given an extra chance at the first tee to make up for his lack of practice. Origin in the mid-1930's is not possible, however, as a citation of the word has turned up from the Detroit Free Press, October 13, 1931 (p. 16): "All were waiting to see what Byrd would do on the 290-yard 18th, with a creek in front of the well-elevated green. His first drive barely missed carrying the creek, and he was given a 'mulligan' just for fun." The author of the piece did not feel compelled to explain mulligan, implying that the word had already been in circulation for a while. The "Byrd" in the quote is Sammy Byrd, a major-league baseball player who was also a serious golfer. His involvement has led the blogger Peter Jensen Brown to speculate that mulligan may have a baseball connection. Swat Mulligan (originally Milligan) was a fictional ballplayer introduced in the New York Evening World about 1908 as a paragon of hitting power; his name became a byword for a powerful hitter ("[Woody Platt], a newcomer to tournament golf, failed to get his strokes working in good shape against the long hitting Herron, who is a real Swat Mulligan of the links."— The Evening World, August 22, 1919, p. 2). Brown also cites a peculiar use of mulligan, apparently not attested elsewhere, in the context of cricket: "If it is a bad ball, 'off the wicket,' he may take a 'mulligan' at it and knock it over the fence, 'out of bounds' they call it." (Colorado Springs Gazette, April 19, 1919, p. 12). Given the semantic distance between mulligan as an exemplification of strength and as a free shot in golf, a link between the two seems tenuous. For a detailed discussion with full references to sources see Peter Jensen Brown's "Hey Mulligan Man! - a Second Shot at the History of Taking a 'Mulligan'" at his Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog, May 8, 2017.

First Known Use

1931, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mulligan was in 1931

Dictionary Entries Near mulligan

Cite this Entry

“Mulligan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

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