Etymology
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muck-a-muck (n.)

"(self-)important person," 1912, short for Chinook jargon high muck-a-muck, literally "plenty of food" from muckamuck "food" (1847), which is of unknown origin. Also mucky-muck; muckety-muck.

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muck (n.)

mid-13c., muk, "animal or human excrement; cow dung and vegetable matter spread as manure," from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse myki, mykr "cow dung," Danish møg; from Proto-Germanic *muk-, *meuk- "soft," which is perhaps related to Old English meox "dung, filth" (see mash (n.)). Meaning "unclean matter generally" is from c. 1300; that of "wet, slimy mess" is by 1766. Muck-sweat "profuse sweat" is attested from 1690s.

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about (adv., prep.)
Origin and meaning of about

Middle English aboute, from Old English abutan (adv., prep.), earlier onbutan "on the outside of; around the circumference of, enveloping; in the vicinity of, near; hither and thither, from place to place," also "with a rotating or spinning motion," in late Old English "near in time, number, degree, etc., approximately;" a compound or contraction of on (see on; also see a- (1)) + be "by" (see by) + utan "outside," from ut (see out (adv.)).

By c. 1300 it had developed senses of "around, in a circular course, round and round; on every side, so as to surround; in every direction;" also "engaged in" (Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?), and gradually it forced out Old English ymbe, ymbutan (from PIE root *ambhi- "around") in the sense "round about, in the neighborhood of."

From mid-13c. as "in the matter, in connection with." From early 14c. as "in partial rotation, so as to face in a different direction." From late 14c. as "near at hand, about one's person." "In a circuitous course," hence "on the move" (late 13c.), and in Middle English "be about to do, be busy in preparation for," hence its use as a future participle in (to be) about to "in readiness, intending." Abouts (late 14c.), with adverbial genitive, still found in hereabouts, etc., probably is a northern dialectal form.

To bring about "cause or affect" and to come about "happen" are from late 14c. About face as a military command (short for right about face) is first attested 1861, American English.

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muck (v.)

late 14c., mukken, "to dig in the ground," also "to remove manure;" c. 1400, "to spread manure, cover with muck," from muck (n.) or Old Norse moka (n.). Mucker "one who removes muck from stables" is attested by early 13c. as a surname. Meaning "to make dirty" is from 1832; in the figurative sense, "to make a mess of," it is from 1886; to muck about "mess around" is from 1856. To muck (something) up is by 1896 as "to dirty, soil;" 1922 as "make a mess of." Related: Mucked; mucking.

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muck-raker (n.)

also muckraker, c. 1600, "one who rakes muck" (earliest use is in a figurative sense: "a miser"), from muck-rake "rake for scraping muck or filth" (mid-14c.), from muck (n.) + rake (n.). The figurative meaning "one who inquires into and publishes scandal and allegations of corruption among political and business leaders" was popularized 1906 in speech by President Theodore Roosevelt, in reference to the "man ... with a Muckrake in his hand" in Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" (1684) who seeks worldly gain by raking filth.

The men with the muck-rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck. [T. Roosevelt, quoted in "Cincinnati Enquirer," April 15, 1906.]

Muck-rake (n.) in sense "person who hunts scandal" is attested from 1872. To muck-rake (v.) in the literal sense is from 1879; figuratively from 1910. Related: Muck-raking.

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midden (n.)

mid-14c., midding, "dunghill, muck heap," a word of Scandinavian origin; compare Danish mødding, from møg "muck" (see muck (n.)) + dynge "heap of dung" (see dung). Modern archaeological sense of "prehistoric place for disposing of kitchen refuse, ashes, etc." is 19c., from Danish excavations.

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amuck (adv.)

17c., variant of amok; treated as a muck by Dryden, Byron, etc., and defended by Fowler, who considered amok didacticism.

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roil (v.)

1580s, "render (liquid) turbid or muddy by stirring up dregs or sediment," also figurative, "excite to some degree of anger, perturb," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps it is from French rouiller "to rust, make muddy," from Old French roil "mud, muck, rust" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *robicula, from Latin robigo "rust" (see robust). Or perhaps from Old French ruiler "to mix mortar," from late Latin regulare "to regulate" (see regulate). Or perhaps somehow imitative. An earlier borrowing of the French verb is Middle English roil "to roam or rove about" (early 14c.); also compare rile (v.), formerly the common colloquial form in the U.S. Related: Roiled; roiling.

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obambulation (n.)

"a walking about," c. 1600, from Latin obambulationem (nominative obambulatio) "a going or walking about," noun of action from past-participle stem of obambulare "to go or walk about, walk past, walk near," from ob "about" (see ob-) + ambulare "to walk, go about" (see amble (v.)).

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circa (adv.)

"about, at or near (a given date)" when the exact time is unknown, 1856, from Latin circa (adv., prep.) "around, round about, near; in the region of; about the time of," alternative form of circum "round about" (see circum-).

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