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First attested around 1656; perhaps a variant of daddle (to walk unsteadily), influenced by daw (a type of bird, hence a "simpleton, fool"). Not in general use until around 1775.

Alternatively, perhaps borrowed from Middle Low German dȫdelen (to dawdle), related to Saterland Frisian döädelje (to dawdle). Compare also German daddeln (to play), German verdaddeln (to waste (time), neglect, ruin).



dawdle (third-person singular simple present dawdles, present participle dawdling, simple past and past participle dawdled)

  1. (intransitive) To spend time idly and unfruitfully; to waste time.
  2. (transitive) To spend (time) without haste or purpose.
    to dawdle away the whole morning
  3. (intransitive) To move or walk lackadaisically.
    If you dawdle on your daily walk, you won't get as much exercise.


See also[edit]


dawdle (plural dawdles)

  1. A dawdler.
  2. A slow walk, journey.
    • 2017, Colin G. Pooley, Jean Turnbull, Mags Adams, A Mobile Century?: Changes in Everyday Mobility in Britain in the Twentieth Century[2]:
      For many the journey home from school was not a walk but a 'dawdle'
  3. An easily accomplished task; a doddle.
    • 2009, Archie Macpherson, A Game of Two Halves: The Autobiography[3]:
      He was a QC from Edinburgh, wearing the black jacket and pinstripe trousers of his trade, as if straight from court, and probably persuaded to come in the belief that if you could interest the Budhill and Springboig party in the repressive Gaullist policies in Algeria then becoming Solicitor-General was a dawdle.