Proper mullered



Back from the dead once again, with a brief and obscure but interesting bit of etymology. Having read a few suspicious origins for the British English word ‘mullered’ (usually used today to mean ‘drunk’, ‘destroyed’ or ‘defeated’), I came up with some useful confirmation of the explanation tentatively given at ‘World Wide Words’ (right at the end of the piece). They don’t seem certain, but as far as I can tell it’s actually very clearly derived from a Romani gypsy word for ‘murdered’. I turned up these two sources;


‘…mush had been mullered’ (the man had been murdered)

-‘The English Gipsies and their Language’ by Charles Godfrey Leland, 1873, p.179
‘Geoffrey growed up long, long ago, and he has been mullered a long time since.” “Mullered,” Gwilym knew, meant dead.’
-’Whistler’s Van’ by Idwal Jones, 1936, p.45

So, nothing to do with ‘mull’ to crush or pulverise, or anything involving Islamic ‘mullahs’. It’s actually one of many Romani slang terms to not only make it into English speech, but to actually ‘go viral’ since the early 1990s. It’s even pretty close to its original meaning if you think about it.

4 thoughts on “Proper mullered

  1. Dear B.S.H.,

    I thought that you might like his. It comes from Geoffrey of Burton’s ‘Life and Miracles of St Modwena’ (edited by R. Bartlett and heavily cut by myself). It’s not relevant to your current post, but I though it very much in your line of country.

    “At the third hour the two runaway peasants who were the cause of this evil were sitting down to eat, when they were both suddenly struck down dead. Next morning they were placed in wooden coffins and buried in the churchyard…That very same day on which they were buried they appeared at evening…The whole following night they walked through the village lanes and fields…banging on the walls of the houses and shouting…When these astonishing events had taken place….such a disease affected the village that the peasants fell into desperate straits and…all except three perished by sudden death. Men…received from the bishop permission to…dig them up…They cut off their heads and placed them in the graves between their legs, tore out their hearts…and covered the bodies with earth again…Soon after this was done both the disease and the phantoms ceased ”.

    1. Wow Facey, that’s gold – thank you! Duly filed away. Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been on work-enforced hiatus for some time now. Not gone for good though, just waiting for something juicy to pop up.

  2. This is the only answer I’ve found that actually makes sense. All references to anyone with the German surnames smack of desperate guess work.

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