Maudlin Definition

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

maudlin definition

Maudlin people are weepy, emotional, foolish, or gushily sentimental. Maudlinness can be someone’s general disposition or can be brought on by alcohol or an emotional situation. 

Maudlin was first used in the early 1500s, and we get it from the biblical character Mary Magdalene. In medieval art, Magdalene was almost always shown weeping, either washing Jesus’ feet with her tears or weeping outside his empty tomb. People of the time referred to anyone who had a similar weepy look or disposition as Magdalene. Over time, the pronunciation became slurred and the spelling changed to maudlin.

A few years ago, I was especially delighted when I saw a news article about the declining number of nuns that quoted a nun using the word maudlin. She said, “We can't be maudlin about [it],” which struck me as an excellent use of the word.

This article is based on an entry in Grammar Girl's book 101 Words to Sound Smart. Buy it now: 

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.