Word of the Day : October 23, 2018


adjective MAW-kish


1 : lacking flavor or having an unpleasant taste

2 : exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

Did You Know?

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."


"Naomi Watts gives a committed, grounded performance as a single mother who finds herself surprisingly agreeable to doing whatever it takes to stay connected to her beloved older son. Few films aspire to be both a mawkish tearjerker and a Hitchcockian thriller, and The Book Of Henry makes a pretty convincing case why more shouldn't." — Tim Grierson, Screen International, 15 June 2017

"Now for the tears of joy, the kind to which mawkish septuagenarians fall prey. First was the experience of taking the grandchildren to Giffords Circus…. " — Max Hastings, The Spectator, 26 Aug. 2017

Name That Synonym

Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of mawkish: m _ u _ l _ n.



More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!