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See also: Dibble


A handheld dibble


Etymology 1[edit]

Possibly dib(to dab lightly) +‎ -le(frequentative suffix indicating repetition or continuousness); however, the word dibble is attested earlier than dib.


dibble (plural dibbles)

  1. A pointed implement used to make holes in the ground in which to set out plants or to plant seeds.
    • c. 1610, William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, Act IV, Scene 4, [1]
      Polixenes. Then make your garden rich in gillyvors, / And do not call them bastards.
      Perdita. I'll not put / The dibble in earth to set one slip of them;
    • 1794, Robert Burns, "Epigram on a Suicide" [2]
      Earth'd up, here lies an imp o' hell, / Planted by Satan's dibble; / Poor silly wretch, he's damned himsel', / To save the Lord the trouble.
    • 1818, John Keats, "Endymion," Book III, lines 153-4, [3]
      In sowing time ne'er would I dibble take, / Or drop a seed, till thou wast wide awake;


dibble (third-person singular simple present dibbles, present participle dibbling, simple past and past participle dibbled)

  1. (transitive) To make holes or plant seeds using, or as if using, a dibble.
    • 1855, Matthew Arnold, "Balder Dead. An Episode," III. Funeral, [4]
      And as in winter, when the frost breaks up, / At winter's end, before the spring begins, / And a warm west wind blows, and thaw sets in— / After an hour a dripping sound is heard / In all the forests, and the soft-strewn snow / Under the trees is dibbled thick with holes, / And from the boughs the snowloads shuffle down;
    • 1955, C. S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew, Collins, 1998, Chapter 12,
      It was Digory who had the bright idea of eating four each and planting the ninth; for, as he said, “if the bar off the lamp-post turned into a little light-tree, why shouldn’t this turn into a toffee-tree?” So they dibbled a small hole in the turf and buried the piece of toffee.
  2. (intransitive) To use a dibble; to make holes in the soil.
    • 1800, Erasmus Darwin, Phytologia, or the Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening, XVI.2.2, London: J. Johnson, pp. 440-41, [5]
      There is another method of sowing wheat in rows used in some counties, which is termed dibbling in the language of agricultors, and consists in making perpendicular holes one inch and half or two inches deep [] ; these are made by a man, who has a proper staff shod with iron in each hand, and as he walks backwards is able by looking at the part of the row already made to keep nearly in a straight line, and to make two holes at once at about nine inches distant from each other every way.
    • 1826, Allan Cunningham, Paul Jones; A Romance, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, Vol. II, Chapter III, p. 66, [6]
      I would as soon be gored by my ain bull that gangs on Dalmakittenleys, as have ill luck, and sorrow, and mischance, drilled and dibbled into my frail body by the spiteful een of an auld hag.
  3. (intransitive) To dib or dip frequently, as in angling.
    • 1787, Thomas Best, A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling, Seventh edition, London: B. Crosby & Co., 1807, Chapter IV, pp. 34-5, [7]
      Natural fly-fishing, which comes under the heads of dibbling, daping and dabbing, is a method with which the largest fish are taken, and requires a deal of nicety and circumspection. The general rule in this way of angling is to fish with a line about half the length of your rod; but if there is wind stirring, with as much as it will carry out; but you need hardly ever fish with more than the first length, as dibbling must be performed as near as possible to the bank that you stand on; therefore a long rod and a short line is the best, which you will command with ease, and be able to shelter yourself from the sight of the fishes, behind bushes, stumps of trees, &c.

Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From the character of Officer Charlie Dibble, a New York Police Department officer, in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series Top Cat (first broadcast in the US in 1961, and in the UK in 1962 under the title Boss Cat).


dibble (countable and uncountable, plural dibbles)

  1. (slang, Britain (originally Manchester), countable) A police officer.
  2. (slang, Britain (originally Manchester), uncountable) Preceded by the: the police.
    Watch out, lads! Here comes the dibble!

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