Origins of Common Words - Mob

About the history, origins, and definitions of the common word mob.

UNCOMMON STORIES BEHIND COMMON WORDS

Mob - If the language purists of the 1700s had had their way, we would not speak of a mob but of the mobile or, worse yet, the mobile vulgus. The latter, which is Latin for the movable or excited crowd, was shortened to mobile in 17th-century English usage, when it referred disparagingly to the disorderly and noisy rabble. Mobile soon become mob, part of a trend that caused Joseph Addison to lament, "It is perhaps this Humour of speaking no more than we needs must which has so miserably curtailed some of our Words...." But the miserably curtailed mob caught on. By the 19th century, it was slang for a group of thieves and pickpockets, and 20th-century usage extended it to organized crime.

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