Cassidy suggests that mucker, a word used colloquially in Ireland and England to mean mate or friend, comes from the Irish mucaire, which is from muc meaning ‘pig’. According to Dineen the word mucaire means a swineherd, a boor, a rustic. Ó Dónaill’s dictionary only gives the meaning ‘a slovenly worker’. How you get from any of these meanings to the notion of a mate is beyond me.

Back in the real world, muck is a very old word in English (derived from Old Norse) which means dirt. A mucker is someone who works with this dirt (as in a mucker-out) but this is probably not directly the origin of mucker in the sense of friend. For this, we need to look at the way that people mucking about or messing about are often having fun together. That’s why we have muckers. So it is far more likely that the word mucker in all its senses is a reference to the English muck + er than that it has any connection with mucaire. As usual, Cassidy ignores the obvious English explanation in favour of a specious derivation from Irish.

Incidentally, while researching this post, I found that others say that mucker comes from the Irish mo chara, meaning my friend. This is also nonsense. As any competent Irish speaker will tell you, it’s a chara, not mo chara when you are talking directly (i.e. vocatively) to your friends. Of course, it is quite acceptable to talk about people in the third person using mo chara, but this would hardly give rise to a loanword, as the mo is not intrinsically linked to the word cara. Only the core form of the word, cara, would be borrowed in a bilingual situation. For example, we have all heard French-speaking characters in films saying things like ‘how are you, mon ami?’ This is a vocative use, like ‘a chara’. But when the Spanish word amigo is used in English, it is always used simply as amigo, never as mi amigo or su amigo, and so it is quite reasonable to assume that people might say things like ‘he is a great cara of mine’, but not *’it’s good to have a mo chara‘ (or do chara or ár gcara, for that matter). And that’s not even touching on matters of pronunciation. Mo chara, if it’s pronounced properly, is pronounced something like mohara, to rhyme with Sahara. How would that become mucker?

In any case, this claim was made by other idiots, not by Cassidy, so it is merely an aside and has no bearing on the substance of this blog.

5 thoughts on “Mucker

  1. David E

    I would have thought the word ‘mucker’ is almost certainly of Germanic origin. In Dutch, the word ‘makker’ means a friend, mate and is pronounced identically to the Cockney ‘mucker’

    1. DebunkerOfCassidy Post author

      I don’t think there’s much doubt about the Germanic origin – to me, English is just a Germanic dialect! Your suggestion about makker is certainly interesting. I tried looking up an etymological dictionary of Nederlands, and it seems to be of Friesian origin and to date back at least to the late 16th century, so that seems reasonable. The problem is that when you look at many of these terms (take buddy, for example) there are loads of reasonable candidates for the origin. One thing’s for sure – neither Irish mo chara nor Irish mucaire are strong candidates for the origin of mucker.

  2. Conan McDonnell

    Mucker is also used in Scotland, where quite a few dialect words originate from the lowlands of the European mainland and there is long evidence of slang hopping back and forth across the Irish Sea.Even the word braw (breá in Irish Gaelic) is of Scandinavian origin. Mucker is also used frequently from the borders down to Teesside so I think the claim of Irish origin is dubious at best.


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