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The first element is perhaps ultimately of imitative origin, although compare earlier quab n.1 Compare also quaw n., and a large number of synonyms of quagmire with a first element of similar form, in use in the 16th and 17th centuries (see earlier quallmire The precise relationship of these to each other is not clear: all, or most, may be independent attempts to express the same idea (quake v.)

N.E.D. (1902 ) gives the pronunciation as (kwæ·gməiəɹ) /ˈkwægmaɪə(r)/ , as do the 19th-cent. dictionaries. All editions of D. Jones Eng. Pronouncing Dict. up to the 14th (1988) give this as the main pronunciation and that with the rounded vowel of bog as an alternative. In the U.S., pronunciation with the vowel of bog is given as an alternative in Webster's New Internat. Dict. Eng. Lang. (1934) and subsequent dictionaries.


  • 1: soft miry land that shakes or yields under the foot
  • 2: a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position : predicament


  • Water infused earth or a bog. Solid ground may turn to quagmire following substantial rainfall.
  • A tactical defense made when defending a territory close to a river. Defenders would dig channels for the river to run in & turn the land into a quagmire.