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be a mug's game

To be a task or activity that is foolish, dangerous, or will not result in a positive outcome. Primarily heard in UK. Allowing your children to play with fireworks is a mug's game. They are bound to get injured.
See also: game

mug it up

To make silly or exaggerated facial expressions, especially when being filmed or photographed. I wish you wouldn't mug it up like that every single time I try to take your picture. I just want one photo where everyone is smiling nicely! She really stole the show, mugging it up for the camera in every scene she was in.
See also: mug, up

mug off

1. slang To treat someone like or make someone seem like a fool. You're just mugging me off now! They're just kids trying to mug you off. Don't pay them no mind.
2. slang To treat someone in a disrespectful or contemptuous manner. She claims the other contestant mugged her off in front of her teammates as a means of creating drama and tension within the show. It just feels like the band is mugging their fans off, charging so much for a concert ticket and then giving such a horrible performance like that.
3. slang To cheat, swindle, or con someone. I had a feeling the solicitor was mugging us off. Over 10,000 customers have been mugged off by the fraudulent investment firm.
See also: mug, off

mug shot

1. An official photograph taken of someone being brought into police custody, usually characterized by the person wearing a grim or blank expression on their face. The celebrity's unflattering mug shot quickly spread across the Internet overnight following his DUI arrest. I actually managed to make a really goofy face while the cops took my mug shot, which pissed them off to no end.
2. Any portrait or photograph that resembles such a picture. I hate getting my mug shot taken at the DMV for my license—I always look terrible! Wow, nice mug shot! Couldn't smile for the camera, could you?
See also: mug, shot

mug up

1. To study through intense rote memorization. Primarily heard in UK. The professor always tells his students not to mug up ahead of exams. I mugged up my whole way through college, but now I can hardly remember anything I learned.
2. To memorize something. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "mug" and "up." Primarily heard in UK. We all mugged the lines up and recited them like parrots, without ever really thinking about what they meant. I'd rather help my students learn how the language is actually used, rather than pressuring them to mug up the precise grammatical rules and terms.
See also: mug, up

mug's game

A task or activity that is foolish, dangerous, or will not result in a positive outcome. Primarily heard in UK. Allowing your children to play with fireworks is a mug's game. They are bound to get injured.
See also: game
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

a mug's game

an activity which it is stupid to engage in because it is likely to be unsuccessful or dangerous. informal
Mug was mid 19th-century slang for a fool, in particular someone who has been duped by a card sharper or criminal. Mug's game appeared in the early 20th century and has been applied to a wide variety of activities, especially horse racing and betting on horses.
1992 Economist From the way many western businessmen talk, you would think investing in eastern Germany was a mug's game.
See also: game
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

be a ˈmug’s game

(disapproving, especially British English) an activity which brings little or no benefit to you: Don’t start smoking — it’s a mug’s game.The money’s terrible in this job — it’s a real mug’s game.
Mug here means ‘fool’.
See also: game
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017


1. n. the face. (Crude.) Wipe that smile off your mug!
2. n. a thug; a goon. (Underworld.) Call off your mugs. I’ll come peacefully.
3. tv. to attack and rob someone. Somebody jumped out of an alley and tried to mug me.

mug shot

n. a photograph of one’s face taken for police records. (Underworld.) I’m going to have to ask you to come down to the station and go through some mug shots.
See also: mug, shot
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
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