Printable Version
Pronunciation: (UK) -lê-grêbz, (US) -li-grêbz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, plural

Meaning: 1. Despondence, grumpiness, sullenness, bad or ill-tempered mood. 2. Upset stomach, colic, diarrhea.

Notes: This word seems to be regional, used in older dialects in Alabama but not in North Carolina, where I grew up. It is a pluralis tantum "plural always" noun, even though the number is not limited to two as are most others pants, glasses. pliers.

In Play: Mulligrubs cause grumpiness: "I'll come back when you get over your mulligrubs; we can't talk when you're this way." It can also refer to stomach problems or just feeling out of sorts: "The king is laid up with the mulligrubs and will countenance no audiences today."

Word History: Today's Good Word seems to be a compound consisting of mully + grub, but most etymological dictionaries give up on tracing its origins. In fact, mully-grub goes back to the 18th if not the 17th century. It referred to an insect larva that feeds on meal. In fact, mully is an obsolete adjective meaning "mealy, moldy, powdery", which makes sense if it feeds on meal. Assuming that mully is a corruption of moldy (British mouldy), mold comes from PIE mele-/mole- "grind, mill", which relates it to mill and meal, Latin molere "to grind", Russian molot' "to grind", Albanian miell "flour", and Lithuanian malti "to grind". Grub descended from Old English grubban "to dig in the earth", akin to grave, gravel and grovel, Russian grob "grave", Latin crypta "crypt, vault", Lithuanian grebti "to rake, scratch", and Latvian grebt "to carve". (Now a word of thanks to Anna Jung for sharing this odd Good Word that caught her ear every time her beloved father, born in Birmingham, Alabama, uttered it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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