Green’s Dictionary of Slang

motherfucker n.

also mahthafukker, m’fucka, mo, mothafucka, mother-for-you, motherfucka, motherfug, motherfugger, muh-fugger, muthafucka
(orig. US black)

1. a supreme insult, an expletive based on the incest taboo, prob. the ultimate in obscenities [dating is difficult, the earliest written citation is in 1918, although R.S. Gold, Jazz Lexicon (1964) notes the term was in existence as early as c.1900].

[US]letter in Journal Amer. Hist. Vol. 81 (1995) 1585: You low-down Mother Fuckers can put a gun in our hands but who is able to take it out?
[US]Rufus Perryman ‘The Dirty Dozen’ in Oliver Screening the Blues (1968) 240: Now you’s a jumpin’ motherfucker, cheap cocksucker, / Goin’ out in the alley doin’ this, that an’ the other.
[US]Memphis Minnie McCoy in Oliver Screening the Blues (1968) 232: [song title] ‘Dirty Mother For You’.
[US] ‘Peter Pullin’ Blues’ in G. Logsdon Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing (1995) 274: Your gawdamn jackin’ off, it has left your peter soft, / Pay your bill and then you mother fucker, blow!
[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 192: I was gonna shoot the mother-fugger but you were in the way.
[US] ‘Ball of the Freaks’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 110: Cocksuckers by the dozens, motherfuckers and their cousins.
[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 79: Kill that mother fug —.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1968) 59: I’ll cut your throat you white mother fucker.
[US]I. Freeman Out of the Burning (1961) 208: Le’s go get those mother-fuggers!
[US]R. Abrahams Deep Down In The Jungle 147: Said the signifying monkey to the lion that very same day, / There’s a bad motherfucker heading your way.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 21: Leave him alone, you mothafucka!
[UK]A. Burgess Enderby Outside in Complete Enderby (2002) 317: Fucking Yankee motherfucker. You stick chewing-gum up fucking ass.
[UK]G.F. Newman You Flash Bastard 72: ‘You dirty cock-sucking scumbags,’ he screeched. ‘You planted me, you motherfuckers !’.
[US]Pileggi & Scorsese Goodfellas [film script] 110: One move, motherfucker, and I’ll blow you away.
[UK]N. Barlay Curvy Lovebox 21: Assholes just waitin’ to see who’s the biggest motherfucker there is.
[US]Hip-Hop Connection Jan.–Feb. 46: Now I can collect the money directly so those mean motherfuckers got cut out.
[US]T. Udo Vatican Bloodbath 80: Damn fucken straight you don’t, muthafucka!
[UK]R. Antoni Carnival 127: ‘You’re a motherfocker!’ I said finally.
[US]Codella and Bennett Alphaville (2011) 316: Fuck them motherfucker Internal Affairs.
[US]Poster at JFK airport 29 Jan. [Internet] First They Came for the Muslims and We Said Not Today Motherfucker!

2. (orig. US) anything one dislikes, an infuriating or surprising state of affairs.

[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 443: You know what the mother-fugger’ll be like?
[US] Letter in Edelman Dear America (1985) 31 Jan. 81: Sometimes it gets pretty hairy in this motherfucker.
[US]E. Tidyman Shaft 185: I’m going to burn that motherfucker right down to the ground.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 151: The upshot. Man, I dread that motherfucker.
[US]T. Jones Pugilist at Rest 11: Headquarters is one boring motherfucker.
[US]Ebonics Primer at www.dolemite.com [Internet] mother-fucker Definition: 1. any despicable person or thing.
[US]G. Hayward Corruption Officer [ebk] cap. 3: The muthfuckas doing the robbing and killing were the same individuals your moms used to babysit.

3. (orig. US black) used with a wide variety of meanings, from good to bad, often as a black-to-black term of affection or a compliment, e.g. Jimi Hendrix was a bad motherfucker on guitar; also simply meaning ‘thing’. Frequently abbr. to mother [note Folb, Runnin’ Down Some Lines (1980) ‘You jus’ be sayin’ dat any way come to your mind. Like you got some o’ dem sweet mothafuckas. They righteously together brothers, got they game uptight, they on dey J.O.B.! Right on! Got dem lowlife thugs. They mean mothas. Don’t be messin’ wid ’em. Blow you away in a minute! Johnny he my ace, now he a bad mothafucka. He together. Strong rap to d’ young ladies – and he go down wi’chu right now! We tight. Gots dem little ol’ punks. Think they together, be talkin’ out d’ side dey neck! Jive mothafucka don’t hold no air! See like da’s one o’ dem slangs got all differn’ kin’a meaning. Don’t be callin’ young lady dat. Dude use dat talk ’bout other dude’].

[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch Man, that mother fucker’s hungry.
[US]T.C. Bambara ‘Mississippi Ham Rider’ in Gorilla, My Love (1972) 49: This jive mother who is my boss thinks he can make some bread by recording some of the old-timers.
[US]P. Marshall ‘Some Get Wasted’ in Clarke Harlem, USA (1971) 357: The Noble Knights, muh-fuggers! The Noble Knights are down!
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 279: He was real short. Maybe that’s why he played that bad mother-fucker part so strong.
[US]C. Himes Rage in Harlem (1969) 125: I’ll be a mother-for-you!
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 150: You gotta be able to say two things that could mean a hundred things, good or bad. One of ’em is motherfucker, and the other is I don’t wanna hear that shit.
[US]Current Sl. V:2 10: Motherfucker, n. A successful or admirable Black male; something good or admirable; worthless person; something which is bad, evil or undesirable (depending entirely upon inflection and the preceding adjective whether the reference is positive or neutral, negative, or often connoting admiration).
[US]E. Bullins ‘Dandy’ in King Black Short Story Anthol. (1972) 68: Hey, mahthafukker!
[US]P. Hankins ‘Testimonial’ in King Black Short Story Anthol. (1972) 101: Joe was a motherfucker. A revolutionary motherfucker. A black man made of steel iron. He was a bad motherfucker.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 168: The Kid! The Kid! [...] The Kid is a motherfucker, you hear me!
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 4: About that time [i.e. late 1940s] motherfucker came into style — it came down from black Harlem in a game called ‘the dozens:’ Two cats would meet on the street and start playin’ the dozens; one guy would say, ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, your mother has a pussy like a Greyhound bus,’ and the other guy come back with, ‘The dozens ain’t my game but the way I fuck your mother is a goddamn shame!’ Rough on the mothers. From then on everything was motherfucker.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 247: motherfucker, muthafucka, mother, motha, ma’fa’, ma, m.f., fucker Ubiquitous label used for dramatic, emotional, emphatic effect in conversation (can be positive, neutral, or negative).
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 185: Po’ motherfuckas.
[US]G. Tate ‘Stagolee Versus the Proper Negro’ in Flyboy in the Buttermilk (1992) 51: Eddie is the funniest muthafucka on the scene.
[US]Ice-T ‘Grand Larceny’ [lyrics] Steal the motherfucker then we count the dough.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 61: One of the tallest white motherfuckers they’d ever seen.
Cooper & Wright New Jack City [film script] I had to snuff somebody out. [...] I said, ‘An enemy?’ He said, "No, that’s too easy. It's got to be an ordinary mo’.
[US]Dr Dre ‘Deeez Nuuuts’ [lyrics] So Daz, step up on the ass / And give these motherfuckers a blast from the past.
[US]Source Oct. 30: Black muthafuckas is prejudiced towards Black muthafuckas. [Ibid.] 186: Fat Joe is a funny m’fucka.
[UK]Observer Mag. 5 Sept. 34: I went to college. I graduated. I make my own cash. I pay my rent. I walk my way. I’m the perfect motherfucker.
[US]W. Shaw Westsiders 223: All the niggas who change the world die in violence [...] Motherfuckers come to take their lives.
[UK]Guardian G2 3 July 5/1: Rakim Mayers [...] the self-proclaimed ‘pretty motherfucker’.

4. a thing, otherwise unnamed.

[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 126: Now I looked all around and everything was groovy, / you know, just like one a them big motherfuckers you see in the movies.
[US]Hall & Adelman Gentleman of Leisure 79: Put this big black motherfucker in your mouth and maybe that will stop some of the noise.
[US]E. Thompson Caldo Largo (1980) 52: Whoo! I mean that motherfucker went off!
[US]J. Wambaugh Glitter Dome (1982) 67: Quit wavin that big ol motherfucker around like that.
[US]G. Tate ‘Atomic Dog’ in Flyboy in the Buttermilk (1992) 34: ‘Where did that Zulu coat and headgear [...] come from?’ ‘Ain’t that a baaad motherfucker, with all them feathers on there.’.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 153: I did my motherfucker overseas back in ’66–67.
[NZ]A. Duff One Night Out Stealing 34: Now muthafucka, [a car] see what ya made of.
[US]L. Pettiway Workin’ It 176: Clarence ended that motherfucker [relationship].
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 87: You could take that motherfucker to the bank and draw interest on it.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 131: This is my district. I rule this motherfucker, you understand?
[US]Dr Dre ‘The Next Episode’ [lyrics] You know who’s back up in this motherfucker!
[US]W. Shaw Westsiders 267: Do my niggas run this motherfucker?
[US]G. Hayward Corruption Officer [ebk] cap. 3: The elevator door closed and it started up. Then the mothafucker jumped, stopped then started up again.

5. an indefinite standard of comparison, e.g. crazy as a motherfucker; meaner than a motherfucker; as adv.

[US] ‘The Letter’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 139: I had just come back from Felony Court, / Mad as a motherfucker, with a bad report.
[US]B. Seale Seize the Time 143: He had his men all around him, decked down, sharper than a motherfucker.
[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 90: She was just fine as a motherfucker!
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 31: Rocco be hot as a motherfucker about you, bro.
[US]H. Selby Jr Requiem for a Dream (1987) 217: It was colderen a mutha fucka out there.
[US]G. Tate Flyboy in the Buttermilk (1992) 36: Sly came out cool as a motherfucker.
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 45: She phat as a motherfucka!
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 4: The kid was cooler than a motherfucker.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 32: You higher than a motherfucker, man.
[US]‘Master Pimp’ Pimp’s Rap 93: I was feeling cool as a motherfucker.
[US](con. 1975–6) E. Little Steel Toes 85: Looking good, peckerwood, fine as a motherfucker.
[US]T. Dorsey Stingray Shuffle 125: You’re higher than a motherfucker.
[US]Burns & Pelecanos ‘That’s Got His Own’ Wire ser. 4 ep. 12 [TV script] Damn, boy, you later than a motherfucker.

6. a large or outstanding example.

[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 71: The sentences are going to be a motherfucker.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 50: It must have been one motherfucker of a firefight.
[US]T. Willocks Green River Rising 230: Saved me old ass too. She’s a motherfucka, man.
[UK]Observer Mag. 1 Aug. 31: A motherfucker straight down the pike.
[US]Ebonics Primer at www.dolemite.com [Internet] mother-fucker Definition: [...] 2. a superb person or thing.
Steve Earle Just an Amer. Boy [album] I was a hitchhiking motherfucker.
[US]C. Hiaasen Nature Girl 194: He’s afflicted with one motherfucker of a migraine.

7. a place.

[US]‘Master Pimp’ Pimp’s Rap 84: That was pretty good, but I’m the Rapper in this motherfucker. You understand?
[US]G. Pelecanos (con. 1972) What It Was 143: And heading out the door he thought: Is it just me, or is everyone in this motherfucker high?
[US]S. King Finders Keepers (2016) 75: When he drank [...] the black beast came out. As a teenager the beast had rampaged through the house [...] tearing the motherfucker pretty much to shreds.

In phrases

for a motherfucker (adv.)

(orig. US black) an intensifying expletive; thus he has guns for a motherfucker, he has a great many guns; I’m throwing bricks for a motherfucker, I’m throwing bricks continually and passionately etc.

B. Seale Seize The Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party [Internet] He had guns for a motherfucker: .357 Magnums, 22’s, 9mm’s, what have you.
[US](con. 1965) B. Seale Seize the Time 17: Every paddy I’d see, whop! I’d throw a brick, and it would hit the cars, and zoom! They’re driving down the street, and I’m throwing bricks for a motherfucker.
like a motherfucker (adv.)

(orig. US black) a general intensifier.

[US] in H. Rap Brown Die Nigger Die! 15: He breaks records getting home to watch it on t.v., cheering like a muthafucka.
[US]A. Young Snakes (1971) 130: I’m itchin like a motherfucker!
[US]E. Torres After Hours 20: I was broke like a motherfucker.
[US]G. Tate ‘Atomic Dog’ Flyboy in the Buttermilk (1992) 34: The record was selling like a motherfucker.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 66: Hurt like a motherfucker.
[US]G. Sikes 8 Ball Chicks (1998) 55: I could flip like a motherfucker.
[US]W. Shaw Westsiders 278: Tibu’s grandmother is always after him to keep the house clean. ‘She screams like a motherfucker.’.
[US]Source Aug. 94: Break like a muthafucka!
[UK]K. Richards Life 62: Sugar cuts you up like a motherfucker and it’s sticky.
[US]P. Beatty Sellout (2016) 82: You gotta green thumb like a motherfucker.

In exclamations

I’ll be a dirty motherfucker! (also I’m a motherfucker!)

an excl. of commitment, usu. followed by ‘if’ and some form of negative statement.

[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 56: I’m a motherfucker if that ain’t old Brock.
[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 18: I’ll be a dirty motherfucker if it isn’t a drag to promise to commit a felony before I even get out.