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  • IPA(key): /ˈæ.dəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ædəl

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English addlen, adlen, from Old English edlēan (reward, pay-back), edlēanian (to reward, recompense); or from or cognate with Old Norse ǫðlask (to gain possession of property), from ōðal (owndom, property).


addle (third-person singular simple present addles, present participle addling, simple past and past participle addled)

  1. (provincial, Northern England) To earn, earn by labor; earn money or one's living.
    • 1855, "An inhabitant" [pseudonym; Francis Kildale Robinson], A Glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases, Collected in Whitby and the Neighbourhood. With Examples of their Colloquial Use, and Allusions to Local Customs and Traditions, London: John Russell Smith, 36, Soho Square, OCLC 318615, page 2:
      ADDLINGS, wages. "Poor addlings," small pay for work. "Hard addlings," money laboriously acquired. "Saving's good addling," as the well known saying, "a penny saved is a penny gained."
    • 1862, anonymous [C. Clough Robinson], The Dialect of Leeds and Its Neighbourhood, London: John Russell Smith, page 233:
      ADDLE. To earn. "It's weel-addled" – well-earned. "Addle nowt an' ware at t' end on 't, an' tha'll soin ha' to leuk raand t' corners." – Earn nothing and spend hard, and you'll soon come to poverty.
  2. (provincial, Northern England) To thrive or grow; to ripen.
    • 1557 February 13, Thomas Tusser, A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie., London: [] Richard Tottel, OCLC 1049068421; republished London: Reprinted for Robert Triphook, [], and William Sancho, [], 1810, OCLC 7109675:
      Kill ivy, or else tree will addle no more.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English adel (rotten), from Old English adel, adela (mire, pool, liquid excrement), from Proto-Germanic *adalaz, *adalô (cattle urine, liquid manure). Akin to Scots adill, North Frisian ethel (urine), Saterland Frisian adel "dung", Middle Low German adele "mud, liquid manure" (Dutch aal "puddle"), Old Swedish adel "urine", Bavarian Adel (liquid manure).


addle (comparative more addle, superlative most addle)

  1. Having lost the power of development, and become rotten; putrid.
    addle eggs
  2. (by extension) Unfruitful or confused; muddled.
    addle brains
    • 1690, [John] Dryden, Don Sebastian, King of Portugal: [], London: [] Jo. Hindmarsh, [], OCLC 1154883115, (please specify the page number):
      Thus far the poet; but his brains grow addle,
Derived terms[edit]


addle (plural addles)

  1. (obsolete) Liquid filth; mire.


addle (third-person singular simple present addles, present participle addling, simple past and past participle addled)

  1. To make addle; to grow addle; to muddle
  2. To cause fertilised eggs to lose viability, by killing the developing embryo within through shaking, piercing, freezing or oiling, without breaking the shell.
    • 1980, Earl Leitritz; Robert C[onklin] Lewis, Trout and Salmon Culture (Hatchery Methods) [California Fish Bulletin; 164], Oakland, Calif.: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, →ISBN, page 61:
      The term shocking or addling trout and salmon eggs is applied to the process of turning the infertile eggs white so they can be separated from the fertile ones. Actually, this amounts to nothing more than agitating the eggs enough to rupture the yolk membrane in the infertile eggs, which causes them to turn white.
Derived terms[edit]


addle (plural addles)

  1. A foolish or dull-witted fellow.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for addle in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913)