Early Motto of the ASC – ‘Many a little makes a mickle’

Many small amounts accumulate to make a large amount.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Many a little makes a mickle’?

A mickle, or as they prefer it in Scotland, a muckle, means ‘great or large in size’. Apart from ‘many a little (or pickle) makes a mickle’ the words only now remain in use in UK place-names, like Muckle Flugga in Shetland (which amply lives up to its translated name of ‘large, steep-sided island’) and Mickleover in Derbyshire (listed in the Domesday Book as Magna Oufra – ‘large village on the hill’). ‘Over’ and ‘upper’ are very common prefixes in English place-names, along with their opposites ‘under’, ‘lower’, ‘nether’ or ‘little’. Examples of these are the Cotswold villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter, and the Hampshire villages of Over and Nether Wallop. The word ‘much’ derives from the Old English ‘mickle’ and has now almost entirely replaced it. ‘Much’ is also used in place-names like Much Wenlock, Shropshire (there’s also a Little Wenlock, of course).

The proverbial phrase ‘many a little makes a mickle’ has now itself been largely superseded by the 18th century ‘look after the pennies (originally, ‘take care of the pence’), and the pounds will look after (‘take care of’) themselves’.

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