1901, "stupid or foolish person," probably a shortening of muttonhead (1803) in the same sense; see mutton and compare meathead, etc. Mutt was used by 1898 of a dog, especially a stupid one, and perhaps this is the same word formed independently (muttonhead also was used of stupid animals), or else a separate word of unknown derivation. Wright's "English Dialect Dictionary" (1900) has "Mutton! used in scolding a dog, prob. in allusion to the offence of sheep-worrying."
"That dog ain't no mutt," McManus would say as he stood behind the bar opening oysters; "no an he ain't no rube! Say! he's in it all the time when Charley trims the steaks." [Robert W. Chambers, "The Haunts of Men," 1898]
Used by 1910 in dog fancier publications to refer to a non-purebred animal.
Mutt and Jeff is by 1917 in reference to "a pair of stupid men, affable losers," or to one tall (Mutt) and one short (Jeff), from the comic strip characters from the heyday of the newspaper funny pages, Augustus Mutt and Jim Jeffries, in U.S. cartoonist Henry Conway ("Bud") Fisher's strip, which debuted in 1907.
"small particle, as of dust visible in a ray of sunlight," Old English mot, of unknown origin; perhaps related to Dutch mot "dust from turf, sawdust, grit," Norwegian mutt "speck, mote, splinter, chip." Hence, anything very small. Many references are to Matthew vii.3.
c. 1300, mote "a mound, a hill" (a sense now obsolete); late 14c., "ditch or deep trench dug round the rampart of a castle or other fortified place," from Old French mote "mound, hillock, embankment; castle built on a hill" (12c.; Modern French motte) and directly from Medieval Latin mota "mound, fortified height," a word of unknown origin, perhaps from Gaulish mutt, mutta.
The sense shifted in Norman French from the castle mound to the ditch dug around it. For a similar evolution, compare ditch (n.) and dike. As a verb, "to surround with a moat," early 15c. Related: Moated.
early 14c., moteren "to mumble, utter words in a low tone with compressed lips," from a common PIE imitative *mut- "to grunt, mutter" (source also of Old Norse muðla "to murmur," Latin muttire "to mutter," Old High German mutilon "to murmur, mutter; to drizzle"), with frequentative suffix -er. Related: Muttered; muttering.
"flesh of sheep used as food," c. 1300, mouton (c. 1200 as a surname), from Old French moton "mutton; ram, wether, sheep" (12c., Modern French mouton), from Medieval Latin multonem (8c.), probably [OED] from Gallo-Roman *multo-s, accusative of Celtic *multo "sheep" (source also of Old Irish molt "wether," Mid-Breton mout, Welsh mollt), which is perhaps from PIE root *mel- (1) "soft."
The same word also was borrowed into Italian as montone "a sheep," and mutton in Middle English also could mean "a sheep" (early 14c.). Transferred slang sense of "food for lust, loose women, prostitutes" (1510s) led to extensive British slang uses down to the present day for woman variously regarded as seeking lovers or as lust objects. Mutton chop "cut of mutton (usually containing a rib) for cooking" is from 1720; as a style of side whiskers from 1865, so called for the shape (narrow and prolonged at one end and rounded at the other).