What does “Mug” mean in British Slang?

Our slang word of the week is mug spelt M-U-G. This is a tricky word due to its vast range of meanings within both slang and formal English.

Now our first and formal meaning of mug is a noun meaning a vessel for hot drinks.

  • Every morning I drink a big mug of earl grey tea- It can also be used as the quantity that can be held in a mug, for example:
  • Oh no I just knocked over a mugful of tea!

However mug has many more meanings. It has origins in working-class communities in Britain, where several definitions can be found.

Our first is a noun meaning a human face. In the 18th century mugs, the vessels, were often shaped like human heads. So people began to refer to the faces of those who were not especially attractive as ‘mugs’ highlighting their unattractive features that resembled the drinking vessel.

Nowadays “mug” can simply mean face, for example:

  • The football hit me right in my mug!

This then explains the term “mug-shot”, a noun meaning a photograph of a person’s face made for an official purpose, especially police records.

These connotations of crime lead us to our next use of mug, this time a verb meaning to be robbed at gunpoint or with the threat of violence. For example:

  • I got mugged on the streets of London.

This term stems from the attack itself, where you may perhaps be hit on your face or mug, during a robbery.

In the last few years with the rise of reality television, such as Love island we are beginning to hear a new use of the noun mug. In many of these shows, when rejected by a romantic partner a contestant may comment that they have been “mugged off” or “made to look like a mug”.

In this case a mug means someone who is easily deceived or slightly stupid, so if you are “mugged off” you are made to look like an idiot. For example:

  • She asked him on a date when she is engaged to you? You have been mugged off.

A new adjective has also been coined in the last few years, which is muggy M-U-G-G-Y meaning to have a tendency to mug people off. A participant in Love island 2017 was even given the nickname “Muggy Mike” due to his tendency to steal girlfriends from other men in the Love Island house.

So what do you drink from a mug? Have you ever been mugged or worse mugged off? Let us know!

That’s the end of our episode so remember to tune in for our next episode to see what new slang we have in store for you!

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