Cloying and mawkish

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Cloying and mawkish are two words that mean the same thing and are for the most part interchangeable, which makes them synonyms. We will examine the definitions of cloying and mawkish, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Cloying is an adjective that describes something sickeningly sweet. Cloying may describe food that actually tastes sickeningly sweet, or a story or movie that is terribly sweet or sentimental. The word cloying is derived from the Middle English word cloyen meaning to encumber or hinder. Remember, the word cloying carries the connotation of choking sweetness.

Mawkish is an adjective that describes something that is exaggeratedly sentimental, something emotional in a childish manner. The word mawkish is derived from the Middle English word mawke, which means maggot. The idea is of something so sentimental it is nauseating. The words cloying and mawkish may be used interchangeably, except when referring to a physical taste.


Acidity gives it that balance that takes away that shockingly cloying sweetness. (St. Catherine’s Standard)

The conductor’s rhythmic command provided enough contrast to keep Bernstein’s intensely lyrical meditation on love from cloying. (The Los Angeles Times)

In the way of a particularly ambitious high school book report, the characters frequently drop names and dates in a way that feels artificial and sometimes cloying. (The Buffalo News)

In between the rough stuff, Snyder and credited screenwriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon shoehorn in mawkish inspirational speeches such as Bruce Wayne’s paean to the late lamented Superman (killed off at the end of “Batman v Superman”): “Superman was a beacon to the world.” (The Tribune)

It’s not that a tear-jerker like “Wonder” isn’t shot through with sentiment, but it kind of miraculously avoids becoming mawkish. (The Berkshire Eagle)