Where Does the Word “Mugwump” Come From and What Does Mugwump Mean?

According to the King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 36:15 reads: “These were dukes of the sons of Esau . . .”

But when John Eliot, in 1663, translated the Bible into the tongue of the native Indians of Massachusetts, he used mugquomp, meaning “chieftain,” as the equivalent of “duke.”

As Mug-Wump, the word appeared in 1832 in the ironical sense of one who would like to be considered a chieftain or vastly important great man.

But fifty years later, or, to be exact, in the presidential campaign of 1884, though at first applied in derision to members of the Republican party who, it was said, thought themselves too virtuous or too important to support the Republican nominee, James G. Blaine, it was taken over by those men themselves as a term for an independent Republican.

Since then anyone, even in England, who fails to vote in accordance with the policies of his party is considered a mugwump, or, as waggishly said of one such independent, “His mug is where his wump should be.”

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