Green’s Dictionary of Slang

mug n.1

also mugg
[apparently from the 18C drinking mugs, bearing a grotesque human face; Liberman (2008 164b) notes Scots mudgeon, a grimace]

1. in context of physical features.

(a) [late 18C] (US Und.) the nose.

(b) [18C+] the human face.

(c) [early 19C] by metonymy, the individual.

(d) [19C+] the mouth.

(e) [mid-19C] the head.

(f) [mid-19C] (UK Und.) a coin (which bears a monarch’s face on one side).

(g) [mid-19C–1960s] a grimace.

(h) [late 19C+] a picture of a person, esp. in police records; thus mug book below.

2. a fig. container [i.e. one into whom one can ‘pour’ any nonsense].

(a) [19C+] a fool, a dupe, orig. the victim of a corrupt card-game; thus mug’s game n.

(b) [late 19C+] anyone not directly involved in the underworld, thus, de facto, a gullible fool, a (potential) victim.

3. a lit. container.

(a) [mid-19C] a pipe.

(b) [mid-19C–1950s] (US) a chamberpot [abbr. member mug under member n.1 ].

4. in context of violence.

(a) [mid-19C–1960s] (US Und.) a strong hold placed on a victim when robbing them, usu. an arm lock or a chokehold.

(b) [mid-19C+] (US, also mug man) a thug, a violent person, a crude loutish person [mug v.1 (2a)].

5. as a person.

(a) [late 19C+] a person, irrespective of character.

(b) [20C+] used affectionately as a direct address.

(c) [1980s] (US black/campus) a very attractive person.

(d) [1980s+] (US black) a euph. for motherfucker n.

(e) [1990s+] (Irish) a sulky person.

(f) [1990s+] (US campus) a friend, partner or acquaintance.

6. [1900s–50s] (US) a police officer or detective; a railroad police officer.

In derivatives

muglet (n.) [sfx -let]

[late 19C] a young victim of a confidence trick.

In compounds

mug aleck (n.) [smart aleck n.]

[1930s+] (Aus.) an unpleasantly conceited, smug person.

mug artist (n.)

[1910s] (US tramp) a (portrait) photographer.

mug book (n.)

1. [20C+] (US police/Und., also mug file) a book of pictures used to help police in keeping records of known criminals.

2. [1930s+] a collection of photographs of prominent people.

mug-catcher (n.)

[late 19C] (UK Und.) a confidence trickster.

mug copper (n.) (also mug john) [copper n. (3)/john n.1 ]

[1920s+] (Aus.) a police officer, the inference is of ignorance and stolidity.

mugfaker (n.) (also mug-fakir) [faker n.]

[1930s–50s] a street photographer.

mug-hunter (n.)

1. [late 19C] a confidence trickster.

2. [late 19C] one who tours the streets late at night in search of drunken men who can be robbed.

mug lair (n.) [lair n.2 ]

[1940s+] (Aus.) a contemptuous description, i.e. a stupid, gullible, flashy show-off.

mug man (n.)

see sense 4b above.

mug-mapped (adj.)

[1910s] plain, unattractive.

mug punter (n.) [punter n. (1)]

[mid-19C+] a sucker in any game of chance or at a racecourse; also attrib.

mug’s game (n.)

see separate entry.

mug shot (n.)

see separate entry.

mug-shoot (v.)

[1930s+] (orig. US) to take a picture of a prisoner for identification; thus mug-shooter n., a police photographer.

mug-trap (n.)

[late 19C] a con-man, one who tricks gullible victims.

In phrases

cop a mug (v.)

[late 19C] of a confidence trickster, to ensnare a victim.

cut a mug (v.)

[early–mid-19C] to make faces, e.g. of a clown or comedian; thus mug-cutter n.

damp one’s mug (v.)

[mid-19C] to take a drink.

mean-mug (v.)

[2010s] (US campus) to scowl.

mugged-off (adj.)

[2010s] foolish, treated like a fool.

polish one’s mug (v.)

[1920s–60s] (US tramp) to wash one’s face.

put the mug on (v.)

[mid-19C–1940s] to throttle.

shut one’s mug (v.)

[1910s] to be quiet, esp. as imper.

square mug (n.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) a ‘straight’ or (supposedly) guileless face.

stall one’s mug (v.)

[mid-19C] to run off, to leave quickly; esp. as excl. stall your mug! go away!

throw one’s mug away (n.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) to let anyone see one’s face, to reveal oneself.

In exclamations

mugs away!

[1940s+] an excl. used in sporting matches when the winners of the previous game tell the losers to start the next contest or game.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

mughouse (n.) [SE mug + house; best known in comb. mughouse clubs, political clubs (of Hanoverian sympathies) which met at ‘mug-houses’ early in the 18C]

[early 18C] a cheap tavern.