Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms of the 1700 and 1800s – Letter M

The following are slang, euphemisms, and terms for the letter M and are primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

M-4541SmMACCARONI (now spelled macaroni) was not only an Italian pasta made from flour and eggs but also a term used to describe a fop. It was claimed that certain well-dressed and fashionable gents, who established men’s styles, were members of what was loosely termed the Maccaroni club, and which by contraction, styled them MACCARONI. If you are interested to learn more about Macaroni, Maccaroni, and the Macaronis, click here.

MACE mean to swindle or cheat, and MACE COVE referred to a swindler, a sharper, or a cheat.

In the mid 1700s, a Mrs. Phillips had a condom shop on Half Moon Street in London. She competed with another shop owner named Mrs. Perkins, and it was said they sold MACHINES, which was a reference to their wares and included such things as contraceptives, bladders, and sheaths.

MADGE was a nicer way of saying a woman’s private parts.

Coffee was originally drank by Turkish people, and that is how it acquired the nickname MAHOMETAN GRUEL in England.

MAIDEN SESSIONS were criminal sessions where no prisoners were convicted of capital crimes.

A MALMSEY NOSE was a red, pimpled nose.

MAN OF THE TURF was a horse racer or jockey.

MANOEUVRING THE APOSTLES meant you robbed Peter to pay Paul, or, in other words, you borrowed from one man to pay another.

MARE’S NEST today means something untidy, but in the 1700s the phrase was made in jest, as mares did not make nests and there was no possibility of a mare’s nest existing. Thus, in the 1700s when someone laughed without an apparent cause, the person was said to “have found a mare’s nest and [to be] laughing at the eggs.”

The squalling and crying of children was said to be MARRIAGE MUSIC.

MARTINET was a word derived from the French general Jean Martinet, who died in 1672, and became a term for a strict disciplinarian because in France he restored military discipline and instituted a standard method to turn raw recruits into a disciplined fighting force.

A gardener was called MASTER OF THE MINT, but someone who pawned his clothes to purchase liquor was known as MASTER OF THE WARDROBE.

MAUNDERING BROTH was slang for a scolding.

MELTING MOMENTS was the act of a fat man and a fat woman engaged in amorous congress.

A chamber pot was also called a MEMBER MUG.

Prostitutes shaved their genitalia to combat lice, to cover up sexual diseases, or for hygienic reasons. Then to cover their shaved parts, they wore a wig, known as a MERKIN.

MERRY ANDREW or MR. MERRYMAN was a buffoon or a jester.

MERRY ARSE CHRISTIAN was a nineteenth century appellation for a whore or prostitute.

A bastard child was known as a MERRY-BEGOTTEN, and a man was said to stand MOSES when another man’s bastard child was foisted upon him and he was  obliged to maintain the child.

A MILCH COW today means a cow kept for its milk such as the Scottish Ayrshire Milch Cow below, but in the 1700s it meant someone who was easily tricked out of his property.

Ayshire Milch Cow, Author's Collection

Ayrshire milch cow. Author’s collection.

TO MILK THE PIGEON meant to attempt an impossibility.

MILL LAY referred to a thief that would force open a house door in order to rob it.

A little person or something dainty or delicate was known as a MINIKIN.

A coat or a petticoat was called a MISH TOPPER.

A mob was called a MOBILITY in opposition to nobility.

MOLL-TOOLER or a MOLLEY was a female pickpocket, but a MOLLY or a MOLLY MOP referred to an effeminate fellow or a homosexual.

Monkey had two meanings. To suck the MONKEY meant to suck or draw liquid from a cask with a straw or small tube, and, in the mid 1800s, it also meant the flask used to carry liquid on hunting expeditions.

A MOON-EYED HEN was a squinting wench.

MOON RAKERS is a colloquial reference to the men from Wiltshire, England. Sometime before the late 1700s, Wiltshire was on the smuggler’s route, and once after receiving several barrels of French brandy, locals hid it in a village pond to outsmart custom officials. One night, as the locals were retrieving a barrel, revenue men came upon them in the pond. To explain themselves, locals pointed to the moon and said they were trying to rake a round cheese. The revenue men thought them simpletons, laughed, and went on their way, but the moon rakers had the last laugh.

To MOP UP meant to drink up or empty a glass.

MORNING DROP was a nineteenth century reference to the gallows.

MOUCHETS, known in French as MOUCHES, were small fashionable patches worn by ladies to cover facial imperfections as shown in this image of the Princesse de Lamballe below. To learn more about this fashion known as patching, click here.

Example of mouche placement and meaning of the mouches. Author’s collection.

MOVEABLES were rings, watches, or any toy of value.

To MOW was a Scottish word to describe the act of copulation.

MUCKENDER was another word for handkerchief.

If you were a MUCKWORM you were a miser.

The private parts of a female were called the MUFF, but a MUFFLING CHEAT referred to a napkin.

In 1651, two London tailors claimed they were the last prophets foretold in the Bible’s Book of Revelation. Their claims sparked a Protestant Christian movement, and its followers became known as MUGGLETONIANS who were disciples of the religious thinker Lodowicke Muggleton.

Lodowicke Muggleton, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Lodowicke Muggleton. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

MULLIGRUBS was a condition of ill temper or low spirits and was also sometimes described as a vague or imaginary illness.

MUMBLE A SPARROW was a cruel sport practiced at fairs. It involved putting a cock sparrow into an upturned hat, and then a man, whose arms were tied behind his back, attempted to bite off the sparrow’s head. However, according to Grose, it was generally unsuccessful because the enraged bird pecked at the person.

MUMPERS were beggars, and a MUMPERS HALL was an alehouse where the beggars frequented.

MUNDUNGUS was foul or rank-smelling tobacco.

MUNSTER PLUMS was another name for potatoes, as was MURPHIES.

MUNSTER HEIFER was a reference to a woman with thick ankles and thick legs.

MUSHROOM was what a person or family was called when suddenly coming into riches or fame.

MUSIC was the watch-word among highwaymen that signified the person was a friend and should be allowed to pass unmolested.

If you were MUTTON-HEADED you were a stupid person.

A man addicted to wenching was said to be a MUTTON MONGER, and MUTTON referred to having carnal knowledge of a woman.


  • Bailey, N., The Universal Etymological English Dictionary
  • Davies, Thomas Lewis Owen, A Supplemental English Glossary
  • Good, J.M., etal., Pataologia. A New (Cabinet Cyclopaedia)
  • Grose, Francis, 1811 Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
  • Grose, Francis, Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence
  • Halliwell, James Orchard, Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words
  • Slang and its Analogues Past and Present

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