Heavens to Murgatroyd – Idiom, Definition and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

You probably heard your parents, grandparents, or anyone older say “Heavens to Murgatroyd” and wondered what they meant. It’s an expression whose origin can be traced to an old cartoon show. Snagglepuss was the character who said heavens to Murgatroyd.

Add this idiom to your vocabulary by understanding its meaning and how to use it! This post also shows how to use it in a sentence.

What Does Heavens to Murgatroyd Mean?

Murgatroyd is an old surname taken from English aristocracy. One of the first mentions is Johanus de Morgateroyde, a Yorkshire constable in the late 1300s. Morgateroyde means the district leading to the moor. A lot of characters in the opera, Ruddigore, are named Murgatroyd.

What’s the Origin of the Phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd”?

Snagglepuss is a cartoon character who said heavens to Murgatroyd. Like “Heavens to Betsy,” the catchphrase expresses disbelief. Use the idiomatic expression to show that you’re surprised, whether it’s a good thing or bad. 

The pink cartoon character was part of the 1960s Yogi Bear Show. He was also the inspiration for Pink Panther’s character. Aside from “Heavens to Murgatroyd,” his other catchphrase was “Exit, stage left.”

The Ohio Newspaper first used the phrase “heavens to Murgatroyd” in 1961. They published it in The Akron Beacon Journal in a small advertisement of a ranch for sale. The ad said, “Heavens to Murgatroyd, she’s a beauty”.

An earlier cartoon in a newspaper also said, “Good heaven, Murgatroyd, what kind of grass rugs are you selling here?” But it wasn’t precisely the catchphrase Snagglepuss says.

Despite the other recorded use of Heavens to Murgatroyd, etymologists cannot trace the actual origin of the idiom. They also debunked the idea that the phrase comes from Bert Lahr’s character in Meet the People. 

Bert Lahr was very similar to Snagglepuss. However, the similarity in their characters is the only proof they can give about the phrase. 

What Does the Name Murgatroyd Mean?

Murgatroyd or Meogateroyde isn’t as common in the USA as in England. That’s why many people think the phrase is so random.

The name Murgatroyd isn’t originally from Snagglepuss in The Yogi Show. It can be traced back to the 20th century. The name Murgatroyd existed in Ruddigore (1887), a Gilbert and Sullivan comic operetta. Its storyline had around ten or more baronets in the storyline.

But way before Ruddigore, Murgatroyd was the name of the appointed constable in Yorkshire, England, in 1371. His full name was Johanus de Morgateroyde, which translates into “John of Moor Gate Royde.” It means “the district that leads to the moor.”

How to Use the Phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd”

You can use this idiomatic expression in several ways, such as man of the cloth or sleep like a top in conversations. You can say it in different contexts without negative consequences. Here’s an example of how to say “Heavens to Murgatroyd” in the workplace.

  • Person 1: “Did you print the important files?”
  • Person 2: “I forgot to print them. I’m sorry!”
  • Person 1: “Heavens to Murgatroyd, Jane, we can’t present the project without the files!”

Here’s a sample conversation between two friends.

  • Person 1: “I’ll call you when I get home from work.”
  • Person 2: “What time are you going home?”
  • Person 1: “Probably before 8 PM.”
  • Person 2: “Heavens to Murgatroyd, that’s too late!”

What Did Snagglepuss Say?

Snagglepuss’ main catchphrase in the show is “Heavens to Murgatroyd.” But he also says, “Exit, stage left” or “Exit, stage right.” This statement is an allusion to the directions onstage in the theater. It shows where or when the actor should exit the stage. 

The cartoon character also likes using “even” as a retort. For example: 

  • “Casserole, even.”
  • “I apologize, even.
  • “It’s like rain. Snow, even.”

Examples of “Heavens to Murgatroyd” in a Sentence

Heavens to Murgatroyd, Mr. Councilman, the homeowners can’t afford a pay increase for members of the council. But, in spite of this, you, Councilman Boggiano, voted in favor of the pay increase. (NJ)

Heavens to Murgatroyd! In Michael Gove’s nativity play he has cast himself as one of the caregivers. (Irish Times)

It finally began running in the  Academy’s digital screening room just this morning, but still those famously snobbish Oscar voters should actually venture out to a theatre to see it (Heavens to Murgatroyd! as Snagglepuss might say). (Deadline)

“Heavens to Murgatroyd” Synonym

If “Heavens to Murgatroyd” is too cartoonish for you, here are other ways to say it:

  • Oh, my goodness.
  • Oh, my gosh.
  • Heavens to Betsy. 
  • OMG. 
  • Dear me.
  • Gee.
  • Golly.
  • Heavens.
  • Woah/Whoa.
  • Wow.
  • My word.
  • Jeepers. 
  • Goodness, gracious.

Summary of the Idiom Heavens to Murgatroyd 

We have no idea about the actual origin of the name Murgatroyd. But we know it’s the cartoon character Snagglepuss who said, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”

Use this idiomatic expression every time you encounter a shocking scenario. If it’s too old-fashioned for you, stick to the colloquial OMG, oh my goodness, or goodness gracious!