• noun an infectious disease of children, with fever and swellings in the salivary glands, caused by a paramyxovirus

Origin & History of “mumps”

The dialect noun mump meant ‘grimace’; and the use of its plural mumps for the disease is thought to have been originally an allusion to the distorted expression caused by the swollen neck glands. Mump itself is presumably related to the verb mump ‘sulk’ (16th c.), and belongs to a family of words (including also mumble (14th c.)) based on the syllable mum, representing an ‘indistinct sound made through closed lips’ (mum ‘silent’ (14th c.) itself, as in ‘keep mum’, comes from this source, as does mummer (15th c.), originally ‘mime actor’).