Meaning of McGuffin in English:


Pronunciation /məˈɡʌfɪn/


(also MacGuffin)
  • An object or device in a film or a book which serves merely as a trigger for the plot.

    ‘the McGuffin in this intriguing comedy is an unpublished novel by a young writer killed in the war’
    • ‘I named it after Alfred Hitchock's description of his plot device, a McGuffin, that every character in the story searches for believing it will solve their problem.’
    • ‘Although this plot motivation is not much more than one of Hitchcock's famous McGuffins, it is a McGuffin that strongly hints at the U.S. government's illegal incursions into foreign parts of the globe.’
    • ‘So if the mystery plot is really just a McGuffin, what is Fuller really trying to accomplish by setting the story in this mental asylum?’
    • ‘Both books feature a McGuffin, which is a term invented, I think, by Alfred Hitchock.’
    • ‘Serleena seeks a McGuffin known as ‘the light,’ the details of which are fairly inconsequential - save that the Earth will be destroyed if it's not removed from the planet before the last five minutes of the movie.’
    • ‘Seems to me like the blindness is a McGuffin, just brought up to generate suspense for that one sequence, then dropped as if the audience is just going to forget about it.’
    • ‘And the reporter turns out to be a McGuffin, a possible problem that never manifests itself.’
    • ‘A lot of science fiction writers just use the scientific element as a McGuffin, to make the plot go forward.’
    • ‘Truthfully, the translation aspect is a McGuffin, a way for Kelman to ease the reader into his language lab without realising it.’


1930s a Scottish surname, coined in this sense by the English film director Alfred Hitchcock, allegedly from a humorous story involving such a pivotal factor.