high muckety-muck

high muckamuck also high muckety-muck
n. Informal An important, often overbearing person.
[By folk etymology (influenced by HIGH(Cf. ↑high)) from Chinook Jargon hayo makamak, much food, plenty to eat, hayo, much (from Nootka ḥayo, ten), makamak, food, to eat, bite (from Nootka maaḥuuma, whale fascia).]
Word History: When the first French trappers and fur traders and the first English-speaking sailors began to arrive in the Pacific Northwest of North America, they found a diverse group of prosperous Native American communities. In the early 1800s, trading companies operating in the region also brought in laborers from Hawaii and China. The many people from different backgrounds living and working in this region developed a pidgin, called Chinook Jargon, in order to communicate. Many words in the pidgin were from the Chinookan languages spoken in the Columbia River valley, but it also included many words from English, French, Nootka, and the Salishan languages. The pidgin was widely used throughout the Pacific Northwest until the 1860s, and it continued to be used in many Native American communities well into the 1900s. Traces of Chinook Jargon can still be found in the regional English of the Pacific Northwest today. Skookum, for example, means "nice and sturdy" and "first rate." Some Chinook Jargon words have even entered American English. High muckamuck, for example, comes from Chinook Jargon hayo makamak, "plenty to eat." Somebody with plenty to eat can afford to feed others and gain status in the community, and in fact, one of the most important ceremonies common to the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest was the potlatch (another English word of Chinook Jargon origin). In a potlatch, members of the community would distribute generous gifts and sometimes deliberately destroy wealth, such as food, blankets, and furs, to gain renown. The impression of wastefulness and boastfulness made on outsiders probably helped develop the use of high muckamuck as "an important, often overbearing person." The hayo of hayo makamak seems to have been associated with the adjective high and the phrase hayo makamak, "plenty to eat," became English high muckamuck.

Word Histories. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • high muckety-muck — ☆ high muckety muck [muk′ə tē muk΄ ] n. Slang HIGH MUCK A MUCK * * * …   Universalium

  • high muckety-muck — ☆ high muckety muck [muk′ə tē muk΄ ] n. Slang HIGH MUCK A MUCK …   English World dictionary

  • high-muckety-muck — noun see high muck a muck …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • high-muckety-muck — noun see high muck a muck …   Useful english dictionary

  • muckety muck — noun A person in a position of power, authority, or status. There were a bunch of muckety mucks in town for the board meeting. Syn: big cheese, big enchilada, big kahuna, bigwig …   Wiktionary

  • muckety-muck — also muck a muck or mucky muck noun Etymology: short for high muck a muck Date: 1912 an important and often arrogant person …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • high muck-a-muck — [ hī mək ə ˌmək] (also high muckety muck) n. informal a person in a position of authority, esp. one who is overbearing or conceited he was once a high muckety muck at the CIA Origin: mid 19th cent.: perhaps from Chinook hiyu ‘plenty’ + muckamuck… …   Useful english dictionary

  • high-muck-a-muck — or high muckety muck noun Etymology: by folk etymology from Chinook Jargon hayo makamak plenty to eat Date: 1856 muckety muck …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • high-muck-a-muck — /huy muk euh muk , muk euh muk /, n. an important, influential, or high ranking person, esp. one who is pompous or conceited. Also, high mucky muck /huy muk ee muk , muk ee muk /, high muckety muck /huy muk i tee muk , muk i tee muk /. Also… …   Universalium

  • high muck-a-muck — (also high muckety muck) noun N. Amer. informal a self important or conceited person. Origin C19: perh. from Chinook hiyu plenty + muckamuck food , with high substituted for hiyu …   English new terms dictionary

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