November 29, 2014
high-muck-a-muck (noun)
\hye-MUK-ih-muk\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: an important and often arrogant person
How do you use it?
Grandpa told us that some high-muck-a-muck at City Hall was holding up plans to build the bike path.
Are you a word wiz?

Which language do you think "high-muck-a-muck" comes from?

"High-muck-a-muck" comes from the Nootka phrase "hayo makamak," which means "plenty of food." "Hayo makamak" was adopted into a pidgin language called Chinook Jargon, which was spoken in the Pacific Northwest in the nineteenth century. Somehow "hayo makamak" was transplanted from the Northwest to central California, where it surfaced in the mid-1800s. But there it was used to mean "big shot," not "plenty of food." The first part of the phrase must have reminded English speakers of the word "high," but how "makamak" came to mean "person" is unclear. Native Americans in Northwest Coast cultures would hold large feasts, called potlatches, featuring "hayo makamak." However, there is no evidence that the phrase was used to mean anything other than "plenty of food" in Native American culture. At any rate, additional variants of "high-muck-a-muck" developed, including "high-muckety-muck" and "high-monkey-monk."
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