I tried looking this up at the Urban Dictionary, but it gave only one net-upvoted definition, and that definition wasn't even clear. The background for my question is coming my watching from a movie with lots of Cockney English sounding speakers; somebody says something to another a bar, and the person being spoken looks upset and yells back, "are you trying to mug me off?"

What does it mean?

  • Any more examples? – jsj Apr 11 '11 at 11:10
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    I'm British, and I don't recognise the expression. I've been trying to think of other expressions it might be a mis-hearing for, but nothing comes clearly to mind. – Colin Fine Apr 11 '11 at 11:14
  • true, and a quick search I did for the phrase mostly came up with hits related to one movie "The Football Factory". I'd bet that's the movie OP has seen. – jsj Apr 11 '11 at 11:17
  • Possibly a class factor? I've only ever heard "chavs" use it. – Orbling Apr 11 '11 at 15:51
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    I'm British and I've never heard this although I've lived in London, Oxford, the North-East and Wales. People here saying it's from the South-East make me think it's probably class-based too. – user8619 May 13 '11 at 21:23

I'm British and I do recognise the phrase, and you are correct it is usually used by Cockneys.

Here is a reference to the reality TV show The Only Way is Essex where someone feels that they have been made of fool (mug) of by his date, who is dancing with another man. She responds that she didn't make him look like a fool (she didn't mug him off).

In The Streets song 'Don't mug yourself' released in 2002, advice is given to a friend not to mug themselves over a girl (not to make a fool of themselves over a girl).

To be mugged off means that you are being made a fool of by someone taking advantage of you. There are two different meaning to the word mug that comes into context with you use this phrase.

  • to mug someone, is take something from someone by use of force. So in this context taking someone of their respect/street cred.

  • to be a mug, is to be fooled by someone, or to be taken advantage of.

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    Ah, very regional then. It's only a guess, but I doubt the earlier meaning of "mug" as a verb has much to do with this new usage. – user1579 Apr 11 '11 at 15:48
  • @Rhodri: Definitely an Essex/East-London phrase, though I've heard it plenty in Hertfordshire/Kent and most of London. – Orbling Apr 11 '11 at 15:50
  • Green's Dictionary of Slang has it as "to fool or deceive someone". Earliest citation is the year 2000. – Brian Hooper Apr 11 '11 at 17:19
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    In other words, "to make a mug of someone." – user1579 Apr 11 '11 at 18:02
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    I've never heard "mug me off" in London - for our foreign friends, London is very linguistically diverse place, even in English. – Marcin May 14 '11 at 10:54

From rhyming slang. Mug and spoon (i.e. what you need to drink soup) — loon. Thus lunatic. Thus be maddened or made mad.


I'm from Essex and it's definitely a phrase we use all the time! It means to treat someone like an idiot, "to mug them off."


It may not have any well-defined meaning as a phrase (I'm British, and I've never heard it).

"Mug" has a variety of uses, so a sentence like that is probably not an idiom at all. You should bear in mind that a film may go to some lengths to accentuate (or even make up) "cockney-isms" — don't mistake movie Cockney for British English, they are definitely not the same thing!

  • No, I've not heard it either (and I'm from Norf-east Lahndahn!) Is it possible it's something dubbed over a ruder word, I wonder? Those melonfarmers in Hollywood are always doing that, you know :) – Matt Gibson Apr 11 '11 at 12:46
  • @Matt: 'melonfarmers'? That's a new one to me. What does it mean? – Mitch Apr 11 '11 at 13:11
  • @Mitch "Melon farmer" is a phrase often dubbed over a similar-sounding insult popular in American culture, to make a film suitable for a more sensitive audience while still roughly matching the lip movements made when saying the original phrase :) By the looks of things, "melon farmer" may have been first invented in the swear-reducing overdub for Repo Man. – Matt Gibson Apr 11 '11 at 13:22
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    @Matt: (mouthing the phrase)...ohhh... – Mitch Apr 11 '11 at 14:14
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    I'm from North London and have heard it plenty of times, street speak, generally it means "make a fool out of me". – Orbling Apr 11 '11 at 15:50

To be a 'mug' or to 'mug somebody off' basically means to take advantage of or to treat someone as an idiot/fool. This is 'street language' widely used across the UK in both youths and adults.


Being mugged off is definitely a phrase associated with white working-class cockney types. Anyone who hasn't heard it by now either doesn't watch many films, listen to soaps, or indeed the radio. I'm a middle aged bloke and presenters on "talk-sport" radio have used it for years. In short, being mugged off means taken for an idiot.

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    I've never heard the expression before this question was asked, but I doubt it has to do with my cultural literacy. I think it's more to do with me not being British. – Kit Z. Fox Apr 10 '13 at 12:32

My understanding of this phrase is "do not disrespect me," i.e. "Do not treat me like a mug!"


To treat someone badly. To fob off.

I also use it in the context "to give a sexual act," i.e. handjob.


Anyone read his book or watched Sir Alan Sugar (the Apprentice) would have heard him say it many a time, Lock Stock Two Smoking Barrels? Snatch?

I'm an East Londoner born and bred, and yes it's common in most conversations with lads in London, and yes more common in East London. Obviously not in Mayfair or West London but I have heard Spencer in Made In Chelsea use it recently so who knows, it's spreading!

The cockney rhyming slang "Toby Jug" means "mug". Also Americans use frequently the term "mug shot" when referring to a police photograph. All references to the face. So to mug someone off is to say to their face something condescending or demeaning and usually for more impact when in a group of peers to belittle the person you are mugging off.

Got it? Or have I just mugged you off?

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    The mugging people off part I cannot answer you, but your casual disdain for the accepted orthographic conventions of Standard English in its written form is certain to be pissing people off, here of all places. – tchrist Feb 28 '13 at 0:04

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