Realizing that often the etymology of a word comes from ‘popular wisdom’ and not necessarily the actual origin, can someone shed light on my question, please.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word mugger as Hindi & Urdu ‘magar’ from Sandskrit ‘makara’ meaning ‘water monster’.
The first definition indicates a crocodile of the Indian sub-continent. India indeed has a mugger crocodile (crocodylus palustris).
The second definition is a noun - ‘one who attacks with intent to rob’. The first known use listed is 1863.
What is the history of the second definition? Could it be a vernacular that was used by the British military during its occupation in India?
I once heard a radio discussion (perhaps originally a Reader’s Digest story) that implied the term ‘mugger, or mugged’ was British military slang. As the story went, sometimes British soldiers on R & R would be jumped by thieves. After a good thumping, the body of the dead or unconscious soldier would be dumped into nearby rivers or swamps where he became fodder for the mugger crocodiles. When the soldier could not be found during roll-call the following morning, a search would ensue. If the missing person wasn’t found, he was marked down as having been ‘mugged’.
Any validity to this explanation, or is this just another popular myth? Thank you, Ulli