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From Middle English Maudelen, a dialectal form of Mary Magdalene (typically depicted weeping), from Old French Madelaine, from Late Latin Magdalena.



maudlin (plural maudlins)

  1. (obsolete, Christianity) The Magdalene; Mary Magdalene. [14th-16th c.]
    • c. 1400, Nicholas Love (trans.), The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ:
      for alle they worſchipden hir ſouereynly / as worthy was / but ſpecially Mawdelayne / that wolde neuere departe fro hir.
  2. (now historical) Either of two aromatic plants, costmary or sweet yarrow. [from 15th c.]
    • 1653, Nicholas Culpeper, The English Physician Enlarged, Folio Society 2007, p. 186:
      Common Maudlin have somewhat long and narrow leaves, snipped about the edges.
  3. (obsolete) A Magdalene house; a brothel. [17th c.]


maudlin (comparative more maudlin, superlative most maudlin)

  1. Affectionate or sentimental in an effusive, tearful, or foolish manner, especially because of drunkenness. [from 17th c.]
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 6:
      Why, man, you couldn't stand—you made everybody laugh in the Gardens, though you were crying yourself. You were maudlin, Jos. Don't you remember singing a song?
    • 1894, George du Maurier, Trilby[1], page 163:
      With the help of a sleepy waiter, Little Billee got the bacchanalian into his room and lit his candle for him, and, disengaging himself from his maudlin embraces, left him to wallow in solitude.
    • around 1900, O. Henry, The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball
      He was a drunkard, and had not known it. What he had fondly imagined was a pleasant exhilaration had been maudlin intoxication.
  2. Extravagantly or excessively sentimental; mawkish, self-pitying. [from 17th c.]
    • 1961, CS Lewis, A Grief Observed
      On the rebound one passes into tears and pathos. Maudlin tears. I almost prefer the moments of agony. These are at least clean and honest. But the bath of self-pity, the wallow, the loathsome sticky-sweet pleasure of indulging it — that disgusts me.
  3. (obsolete) Tearful, lachrymose. [17th-19th c.]