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From Middle English kuggel, from Old English cyċġel (a large stick, cudgel), from Proto-West Germanic *kuggil, from Proto-Germanic *kuggilaz (knobbed instrument), derivative of Proto-Germanic *kuggǭ (cog, swelling), from Proto-Indo-European *gewgʰ- (swelling, bow), from Proto-Indo-European *gew- (to bow, bend, arch, curve), equivalent to cog +‎ -el (diminutive suffix). Cognate with Middle Dutch coghele (stick with a rounded end).


  • IPA(key): /ˈkʌd͡ʒəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌdʒəl


cudgel (plural cudgels)

  1. A short heavy club with a rounded head used as a weapon.
    The guard hefted his cudgel menacingly and looked at the inmates.
  2. (figurative) Anything that can be used as a threat to force one's will on another.
    • 1893, William Morris, The Ideal Book[1], published 1908:
      As above said, legibility depends also much on the design of the letter; and again I take up the cudgels against compressed type, and that especially in Roman letters: []
    • 2015 April 15, Jonathan Martin, “For a Clinton, It’s Not Hard to Be Humble in an Effort to Regain Power”, in The New York Times[2]:
      Mrs. Clinton’s Senate tenure, however, also demonstrated the risks of overcompensation: Not wanting to give Republicans fodder to portray her as soft on defense, she authorized President Bush to use force in Iraq and handed Mr. Obama a political cudgel to use against her.
    • 2019 July 17, Talia Lavin, “When Non-Jews Wield Anti-Semitism as Political Shield”, in GQ[3]:
      [Minnesota Senator Steve] Daines isn’t the only example of right-wing politicians who wish to wield anti-Semitism as a convenient cudgel against their political enemies, with scant if any evidence. But Montana’s vanishingly small Jewish population makes it particularly clear that this strategy has little to do with flesh-and-blood Jews at all.
    • 2021 January 11, Mimi Swartz, “Never Forget What Ted Cruz Did”, in The New York Times[4], →ISSN:
      Mr. Cruz has been able to use his pseudo-intellectualism and his Ivy League pedigree as a cudgel.

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cudgel (third-person singular simple present cudgels, present participle (US) cudgeling or (Commonwealth) cudgelling, simple past and past participle (US) cudgeled or (Commonwealth) cudgelled)

  1. To strike with a cudgel.
    The officer was violently cudgeled down in the midst of the rioters.
  2. To exercise (one's wits or brains).

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