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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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A Word A Day — mawkish

Good morning, Netizens,,.

October 30, 2012

Word of the Day

  • mawkish
  • audio pronunciation
  • \MAW-kish\


: having a weak often unpleasant taste
: marked by sickly sentimentality : sad or romantic in a foolish or exaggerated way

Tessa preferred to give out humorous greeting cards to her friends as opposed to the mawkish ones that were supposed to make them cry.

"Although [the Bee Gees] harmonized beautifully, they had none of the Fab Four's cheekiness or verbal cleverness. In contrast to the Beatles, their ballad-heavy music was often mawkish." — From Alice Echols' 2011 book Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture


The etymology of "mawkish" really opens up a can of worms—or, more properly, maggots. The "mawk" of "mawkish" derives from Middle English "mawke," which means "maggot." "Mawke," in its turn, developed from the Old Norse word "mathkr," which had the same meaning as its descendant. Although "mawkish" literally means "maggoty," since at least the 17th century English speakers have eschewed its decaying carcass implications and used it figuratively instead. As one language writer put it, "Time has treated 'mawkish' gently: the wormy stench and corruption of its primal state were forgotten and 'mawkish' became sickly in a weak sort of way instead of repulsive and revolting."

From Merriam-Webster Online at


Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.