Definition of hugger-mugger in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhəɡərˌməɡər/


1Confused; disorderly: a spirit of careless frivolity where all was hugger-mugger
More example sentences
  • Leon's sister Helene Mar had herself acted in the silent film era, then spent the rest of her life creating artistes - her hugger-mugger brother, her daughters, who became dancers, and pre-eminently, Johnny.
  • It has taken a little over a fortnight for a large group of adults to regress to that institutional hugger-mugger one first encountered at boarding school at the age of eight.
  • A hugger-mugger horizontal tenement of ugly, awkward, moulded plastic bathroom fittings bobbing in cess.
2Secret; clandestine.
Example sentences
  • He successfully pursued this hugger-mugger strategy in 1810.
  • I hated going hugger-mugger in the car because I wanted to read and this was impossible with elbows and knees stuck across your face.
  • It is a hugger-mugger bubbling pot of intrigue, smuggling, poverty, filth and some of the best food in Asia.


1Confusion; muddle.
Example sentences
  • The room is a hugger-mugger of tables with a bar, and pictures of Iberians in pink knickerbockers doing painful things to ungulates.
  • A few degrees left, and the hugger-mugger of the Old Town resolved itself into an open garret window here, with orange curtains, or there, a ladder leaning precipitously from a roof up onto a disorderly row of chimney pots.
Example sentences
  • And the plot wandered and annoyed, piling on new mystical hugger-mugger… but when it came to the end, it hit me like an anvil in the sternum.
  • After Polonius and Ophelia have both died violently and been buried ‘in hugger-mugger,’ as Claudius tells Gertrude, the mistreatment of the dead is shocking indeed.
  • This may have helpfully covered up some of the (to rephrase Proust) intermittences of the art, but it also increased the sense of hugger-mugger.


Early 16th century (sense 2 of the noun): probably related to huddle and to dialect mucker 'hoard money, conceal'. This is one of a number of similar formations from late Middle English to the 16th century, including hucker-mucker and hudder-mudder, with the basic sense 'secrecy, concealment'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: hug·ger-mug·ger

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