Word of the Week: Ragamuffin


This Word of the Week, I picked completely at random from my Oxford Mini Dictionary (does anyone still use their Mini Dictionaries, or does everyone use the Internet these days?). I love this word because it sounds quite quaint and old-fashioned, whilst there’s something a bit playful about the word.

According to the trusty dictionary, ragamuffin means:

n. a person in ragged, dirty clothes.

Whilst, according to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable….

A muffin is a poor thing of a creature, a “regular muff”; so that a ragamuffin is a sorry creature in rags.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology describes the word “ragamuffin” as coming from the word “rag” meaning a scrap of textile material. Throughout the 13th Century the word “ragged” was used to refer to the devil, in the sense of looking “ragged” or “shaggy” in appearance.

However, it is also a breed of cat, that apparently (as Wikipedia tells me) appeared in 1994.

In literature, popular children’s author Enid Blyton wrote a novel called The Ragmuffin Mystery that was the last book in her Barney Mysteries series, and was released back in 1959. Caribbean Sci Fi writer tobia S. Buckell also released a book called Ragamuffin in 2007.

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