Weekly Word: Malkin

I found this word from the wonderful A.Word.A.Day site. Also spelled maukin or mawkin, malkin is a noun with a number of different meanings:

  1. an untidy woman; slattern.
  2. a scarecrow, ragged puppet, or grotesque effigy.
  3. a mop, esp. one made from a bundle of rags and used to clean out a baker's oven.
  4. a cat.
  5. a hare.

Here’s what the Online Etymology Dictionary has to share:

"a slattern, woman of the lower classes," c.1275, from fem. proper name Malkyn, a dim. of Mault "Maud" (see Matilda). Also attested from c.1207 as the proper name of a female specter. Sense of "untidy woman" led to meaning "mop, bundle of rags on a stick" (used to clean ovens, artillery pieces, etc.), c.1400. Attested as the name of a cat since 1673; used in Scotland and northern England as the name of a hare (1724).

As for the word Matilda:

fem. proper name, from Fr. Mathilde, of Gmc. origin, lit. "mighty in battle," cf. O.H.G. Mahthilda, from mahti "might, power" + hildi "battle."

Interesting. Wikipedia points out a few unlucky souls whose last names are Malkin, like political blogger Michelle Malkin. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I know I wouldn’t want that to be my last name. ;)