One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
nounScottish, Northern English
A large amount.
- ‘It didn't fare so well with the question ‘How many mickle in a muckle?’’
adjectiveNorthern English, Scottish
Very large.‘she had a great big elephant … that's one of those mickle beasts from Africa’
- ‘‘When they cast the colours at the end of the Selkirk common riding a great, muckle lump comes into my throat, even though I ken it's a load o' rubbish.’’
- ‘Do you know there's this old church in Aberdeen that's now a great muckle warren o' a pub that can hold 1,500 folk?’
- ‘Do you open that muckle gate, or do I stand here until the rain rots it away?’
- ‘The footballer has vowed to walk out on the club that he loves if they carry on meeting his heartfelt pleas for talks on his future with a muckle wall of silence.’
- ‘Flanked on either side by a lass with a muckle great sword, and blowing for all he's worth, Kenny leads the procession into the main exhibition and conference hall, through a glitter of camera flashes.’
determiner & pronounNorthern English, Scottish
Much; a large amount.
The original proverb many a little makes a mickle was misquoted (and first recorded in the writing of George Washington, 1793) as many a mickle makes a muckle. While mickle and muckle are, by origin, merely variants of the same (now dialect) word meaning ‘a large amount’, the misquotation spawned a misunderstanding that has now become widespread: that mickle means ‘a small amount’, and muckle means the opposite, ‘a large amount’
many a little makes a mickle
proverb, archaic Many small amounts accumulate to make a large amount.
- ‘After you award it to your kids, they will collect little by little even one penny and put it in this cute Jar, after a while, many a little makes a mickle, they will be very surprised to ask you: ‘Mom, my piggy jar is going to full, may I take them out and fill him again?’’
- ‘Remember, many a little makes a mickle; and farther, beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.’
- ‘Thorough instruction in all military details is best, and there is an old saying that ‘many a mickle makes a muckle.’’
- ‘Unfortunately, one of George Washington's favorite Scottish maxims, ‘Many a mickle makes a muckle’ did not survive the eighteenth century.’
- ‘Although they also say ‘many a mickle makes a muckle’, and I've never understood what the heck that means.’
Old English micel ‘great, numerous, much’, of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Greek megas, megal-.
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