1 : a bolter from the Republican party in 1884
2 : a person who is independent (as in politics) or who remains undecided or neutral
"[Woodrow] Wilson was representative of a moderate progressivism that existed in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of this one. He was a mugwump reacting negatively to the new, industrialist class, but maintaining a strong belief in the triumph of American ideals and progress." — Hans Vought, The Journal of American Ethnic History, Spring 1994
"Most journalists are mugwumps, though you might not know it from the way we are often described as ideological warriors salivating over opportunities to pursue foes." — Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Apr. 2014
Did You Know?
Mugwump is an anglicized version of a word used by Massachusett Indians to mean "war leader." The word was sometimes jestingly applied in early America to someone who was the "head guy." The first political mugwumps were Republicans in the presidential race of 1884 who chose to support Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland rather than their own party's nominee. Their independence prompted one 1930s humorist to define a mugwump as "a bird who sits with its mug on one side of the fence and its wump on the other."
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to create a word for someone who modifies a policy, position, or opinion in order to achieve a particular end: t _ i _ m _ r.VIEW THE ANSWER