Appalachian Dialect Music

February: The Month for Mollygrubs

dark rainy day

The Free Dictionary has this entry for mullygrubs: Rur. to feel depressed. She had the mullygrubs because her husband was out of town. Joe had the mullygrubs. We tried to cheer him up. has this entry:

mul·li·grubs [muhl-i-gruhbz] Show IPA
noun ( used with a singular or plural verb ) Southern U.S.
ill temper; colic; grumpiness.
1590–1600; earlier mulligrums, apparently alteration of megrims

Meriam Wesbster has this entry:

mul·li·grubs noun plural

Full Definition of MULLIGRUBS

: a despondent, sullen, or ill-tempered mood : sulks, blues
: a griping of the intestines : colic
Variants of MULLIGRUBS

mul·li·grubs or mul·ly·grubs also mol·ly·grubs

alter. (prob. influenced by grub) of earlier mulliegrums, perh. alter. (perh. influenced by obs. E mully dusty, moldy, fr. E 1mull + -y) of megrims, pl. of 1megrim

The T FOR TRANSLATION website has an interesting post about the word-you can go here to read it in its entirety. The post tells about the history of the word mullygrubs and discusses how it has fallen out of use in most of the US. However, according to the article, the word is still very popular in the country of Australia, where a 1990s television show was titled Mulligrubs.

T FOR TRANSLATION also shares three interesting quotes from past writings.

  • Idleness lies in bed sick of the mulligrubs where industry finds health and wealth. (Brave Men and Women by O.E. Fuller)
  • ‘Tis the maddest trick a man can ever play in his whole life, to let his breath sneak out of his body without any more ado, and without so much as a rap o’er the pate, or a kick of the guts; to go out like the snuff of a farthing candle, and die merely of the mulligrubs, or the sullens. (Don Quixote, by Miguel De Cervantes)
  • As for myself, while I have scarce stirred to take exercise for four or five days, no wonder I had the mulligrubs. (The Journal of Sir Walter Scott by Sir Walter Scott).


I’ve never heard anyone use the word mollygrubs, nor any of its variations, to describe being down and out. I’ve heard Jim Casada say his grandpa Joe used the word often.

February is certainly the time for folks to feel the pain of mollygrubs. The celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s are over and days can be dark and dreary.

Brasstown and surrounding areas have seen more than their fair share of rain during February. There’s been widespread flooding leading to school and business closures.

I’ve worn waterproof shoes to work pretty much every day this month. After I sloshed back to the car the other day and headed for home The Pressley Girls’ version of “Deep Dark Hollow” came through my speakers. I thought if there was ever a time for a melancholy song its certainly these rainy days.

Some people are prone to having the mollygrubs, thankfully I’m not one of them. My heart goes out to those who do suffer from them.


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  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    February 21, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    I’d never heard of that meaning before. I used it as a pet name my children and grandkids, shortened to just grub sometimes. Still use it that way. Australian and New Zealand definition :
    A grub, especially a Witchety Grub.
    It’s a fleshy grub that lives around tree roots that Aboriginal people used for food.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    February 18, 2020 at 9:20 am

    Tipper never heard the word mollygrub but I have tried to keep busy. I call the people who are chronic complainers on a Pitty pat but I guess I have been sheltered from many things that maybe could add to a word Mollygrubs

  • Reply
    February 16, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Praying for y’all some ! Our oldest daughter lived in NC years ago & has wanted to move back there…prayed to move back there to your beautiful state. She & her family were so excited to realize their dream right after Christmas. She has been in those mullygrubs…so much rain & dark clouds. She said she asked folks if this was the new normal because she did not recall the weather being so dark & rainy. They told her it was not the norm. She said, “mama, the daffodils are blooming but there’s none in my yard.” Oh, Lord, may the shine on North Carolina today!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Layfield
    February 16, 2020 at 10:26 am

    This was a great read today as always!! My maw never got down very much but this brought back memories of her !! She would say ” Now sister there aint no reason to get the mullygrubs we all have so much to be thankful for today and the sun will shine again tomorrow!” Thank you for sharing with us!! God Bless you~!!

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    February 16, 2020 at 10:05 am

    I’ve never heard that word used but I’m certainly feeling the mollygrubs. It’s been a dreary couple of weeks: snow, rain, cold, warm. Up until last week, the weather man said we’d had 40 days without sun!

    The suns out today and I’m looking forward to Spring!

    (I will say the snow has made the woods awful pretty!).

  • Reply
    February 16, 2020 at 9:24 am

    My daughter said she has never seen the weather bring out the mollygrubs in a person like it does me and her husband. I’ll take the cold as long as the sun is shining. The Weather Channel has warned us we could see another spring with record breaking rainfall. My electric bill will be sky high as I try to brighten up this Deep Dark Holler.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 16, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I could listen to Katie sing all day! Like you I first heard mullygrubs from Mr. Cassada. My Daddy often used the word melancholy though.
    I used to say to the women in my department when they looked downcast, “Where’d you leave your smile? You look like somebody just ran over your pet puppy dog.”

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 16, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Mollygrubs isn’t a word I hear but this rainy, cloudy weather could give them to you. We had one day last week with 4 inches of snow, One of those beautiful wet snows that hangs on trees. It really brightened up everything and our mood.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 16, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Tipper–Somehow mollygrubs is more expressive to me than cabin fever, down in the dumps, or disgruntled. Grandpa Joe not only used it (along with “having the miseries”) regularly this time of year, he staunchly maintained that the reason February was the shortest month was that “a body couldn’t abide it if it was any longer.”

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Sheila Lowery
    February 16, 2020 at 8:32 am

    That is a perfect word for the old blah’s! Here in Southern Illinois it’s been just a rainy, gloomy winter. No snow, just days of gray skies and buckets of rain.
    I enjoy your blog so very much and though I’m not from your region, I read so much here that applies to my own raising in Papertown (Shields). The general store that long ago closed, the school house gone that was named for a Great Grandfather of mine. The church there is also named for this same man and still continues to rejoice our Lord.
    Such sweet memories, I cherish them so. God bless you and yours!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 16, 2020 at 8:26 am

    You are blessed to not be susceptible to the mollygrubs. Maybe you move too fast and too often for them to catch you. They catch me occasional but not so much this February. The smiley faces of the yellow daffodils and the red burning bush have helped stave them off. And when we do get sun, we get ‘sparkles’ on the wall from our prisms in the kitchen window. Every little bit helps. Around here, it sorta kinda maybe is looking like spring. The grass is such a rich green so when the sun does work out it is uplifting.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 16, 2020 at 8:19 am

    I don’t recall ever hearing the word mullygrubbs but it is very descriptive and I immediately understand it’s meaning. All this rain we’ve had will surely bring on a case of the mullygrubbs. I love how we make up words to describe our feelings or conditions.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    February 16, 2020 at 8:12 am

    I’ve heard this — and occasionally used it — all my life. Like you,
    Tipper, I’m thankful that I’m not susceptible.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    February 16, 2020 at 6:33 am

    Well, I sometimes get a case of the mule-lip.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    February 16, 2020 at 6:12 am

    tipper that is a good description of how I have been feeling… as always to you and the songbirds…I think I found that dark hollow….
    just waiting for sunshine in this dreary little city in pa….hope you are all well sending big ladybug hugs to you

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