Meaning of mickle in English:


(also muckle)

Pronunciation /ˈmɪk(ə)l/


Scottish, Northern English
  • A large amount.

    • ‘It didn't fare so well with the question ‘How many mickle in a muckle?’’


Scottish, Northern English
  • Very large.

    ‘she had a great big elephant … that's one of those mickle beasts from Africa’
    • ‘Do you know there's this old church in Aberdeen that's now a great muckle warren o' a pub that can hold 1,500 folk?’
    • ‘‘When they cast the colours at the end of the Selkirk common riding a great, muckle lump comes into my throat, even though I ken it's a load o' rubbish.’’
    • ‘The footballer has vowed to walk out on the club that he loves if they carry on meeting his heartfelt pleas for talks on his future with a muckle wall of silence.’
    • ‘Do you open that muckle gate, or do I stand here until the rain rots it away?’
    • ‘Flanked on either side by a lass with a muckle great sword, and blowing for all he's worth, Kenny leads the procession into the main exhibition and conference hall, through a glitter of camera flashes.’


Scottish, Northern English
  • Large in amount or quantity.

    • ‘I've not got muckle need for such things’


The original proverb many a little makes a mickle was misquoted (and first recorded in the writing of George Washington, 1793) as many a mickle makes a muckle. While mickle and muckle are, by origin, merely variants of the same (now dialect) word meaning ‘a large amount’, the misquotation spawned a misunderstanding that has now become widespread: that mickle means ‘a small amount’, and muckle means the opposite, ‘a large amount’


    many a little makes a mickle
    Scottish, Northern English proverb
    • Many small amounts accumulate to make a large amount.

      ‘Remember, many a little makes a mickle; and farther, beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.’
      • ‘After you award it to your kids, they will collect little by little even one penny and put it in this cute Jar, after a while, many a little makes a mickle, they will be very surprised to ask you: ‘Mom, my piggy jar is going to full, may I take them out and fill him again?’’
      • ‘Thorough instruction in all military details is best, and there is an old saying that ‘many a mickle makes a muckle.’’
      • ‘Although they also say ‘many a mickle makes a muckle’, and I've never understood what the heck that means.’
      • ‘Thorough instruction in all military details is best, and there is an old saying that ‘many a mickle makes a muckle.’’
      • ‘Unfortunately, one of George Washington's favorite Scottish maxims, ‘Many a mickle makes a muckle’ did not survive the eighteenth century.’


Old English micel ‘great, numerous, much’, of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Greek megas, megal-.