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high muckamuckalso high muckety-muck
An important, often overbearing person.
[By folk etymology (influenced by high) from Chinook Jargon hayo makamak, much food, plenty to eat, hayo, much (from Nootka ḥayo, ten), makamak, food, to eat, bite (from Nootka maaḥuuma, whale fascia).]
Word History: When the first French trappers and fur traders and the first English-speaking sailors began to arrive in the Pacific Northwest of North America, they found a diverse group of prosperous Native American communities. In the early 1800s, trading companies operating in the region also brought in laborers from Hawaii and China. The many people from different backgrounds living and working in this region developed a pidgin, called Chinook Jargon, in order to communicate. Many words in the pidgin were from the Chinookan languages spoken in the Columbia River valley, but it also included many words from English, French, Nootka, and the Salishan languages. The pidgin was widely used throughout the Pacific Northwest until the 1860s, and it continued to be used in many Native American communities well into the 1900s. Traces of Chinook Jargon can still be found in the regional English of the Pacific Northwest today. Skookum, for example, means "nice and sturdy" and "first rate." Some Chinook Jargon words have even entered American English. High muckamuck, for example, comes from Chinook Jargon hayo makamak, "plenty to eat." Somebody with plenty to eat can afford to feed others and gain status in the community, and in fact, one of the most important ceremonies common to the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest was the potlatch (another English word of Chinook Jargon origin). In a potlatch, members of the community would distribute generous gifts and sometimes deliberately destroy wealth, such as food, blankets, and furs, to gain renown. The impression of wastefulness and boastfulness made on outsiders probably helped develop the use of high muckamuck as "an important, often overbearing person." The hayo of hayo makamak seems to have been associated with the adjective high and the phrase hayo makamak, "plenty to eat," became English high muckamuck.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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|Noun||1.||high muckamuck - an important or influential (and often overbearing) person|
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