A Dictionary of the English Language
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Múmmy. n.s. [mumie, Fr. mumia, Lat. derived by Salmasius from amomum, by Bochart from the Arabick.]

  1. A dead body preserved by the Egyptian art of embalming.

    We have two different substances preserved for medicinal use under the name of mummy: one is the dried flesh of human bodies embalmed with myrrh and spice; the other is the liquor running from such mummies when newly prepared, or when affected by great heat, or by damps: this is sometimes of a liquid, sometimes of a solid form, as it is preserved in vials well stopped, or suffered to dry and harden in the air: the first kind is brought to us in large pieces, of a lax and friable texture, light and spungy, of a blackish brown colour, and often black and clammy on the surface; it is of a strong but not agreeable smell: the second sort, in its liquid state, is a thick, opake, and viscous fluid, of a blackish and a strong, but not disagreeable smell: in its indurated slate it is a dry, solid substance, of a fine shining black colour and close texture, easily broken, and of a good smell: this sort is extremely dear, and the first sort so cheap, that as all kinds of mummy are brought from Egypt we are not to imagine it to be the ancient Egyptian mummy. What our druggists are supplied with is the flesh of executed criminals, or of any other bodies the Jews can get, who fill them with the common bitumen so plentiful in that part of the world. and adding aloes, and some other cheap ingredients, send them to be baked in an oven till the juices are exhaled, and the embalming matter has penetrated so thoroughly that the flesh will keep. Mummy has been esteemed resolvent and balsamick; and besides it, the skull, and even the moss growing on the skulls of human skeletons, have been celebrated for antiepileptick virtues; the fat also of the human body has been recommended in rheumatisms, and every other part or humour have been in repute for the cure of some disease: at present we are wise enough to know, that the virtues ascribed to the parts of the human body are all either imaginary, or such as may be found in other animal substances: the mummy and the skull alone of all these horrid medicines retain their places in the shops. Hill's Mat. Med.

    The silk
    Was dy'd in mummy, which the skilful
    Conserv'd of maidens hearts.
    Shakesp. Othello.

    It is strange how long carcases have continued uncorrupt, as appeareth in the mummies of Egypt, having lasted some of them three thousand years. Bacon's Nat. Hist. № 771.

    Sav'd by spice, like mummies, many a year,
    Old bodies of philosophy appear.
    Dunciad, b. i.

  2. Mummy is used among gardeners for a sort of wax used in the planting and grafting of trees. Chambers.

  3. To beat to a Mummy. To beat soundly. Ains.

Sources: Ainsworth, Robert (56) · Bacon, Francis (396) · Bochart, Samuel (1) · Chambers, Ephraim (20) · Hill, John (29) · Shakespeare's Othello (60) · Pope, Alexander (393) · Salmasius, Claudius (2)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Mummy." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: January 5, 2013. https://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/mummy/.

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