Part of speech: noun
Origin: British English, 1930s
An object or event that serves as a plot device in fiction, but is ultimately irrelevant
A storytelling technique that serves to further the plot
Examples of MacGuffin in a sentence
"In 'Titanic,' the Heart of the Ocean necklace was nothing more than a MacGuffin — propelling the story, but not actually important."
"The critics said his story relied too heavily upon a MacGuffin and never resolved the mystery."
The ultimate MacGuffin might be the Holy Grail. In many books and movies, heroes embark upon epic adventures in search of it, but it’s never found. Ultimately, the story is really about the voyage and the characters, not the Grail.
Did you Know?
Legendary British filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock is credited with coining this word (sometimes spelled "McGuffin"), but the origin really lies with his screenwriter, Angus MacPhail. The duo used this Scottish surname to describe objects or events that drive the suspense of a story. Famous MacGuffins in cinema include the rug in “The Big Lebowski,” the ring from “Lord of the Rings,” and the briefcase in “Pulp Fiction.”