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A Roman snail (Helix pomatia), the largest species of snail in Britain, in the North Downs, England, UK. This specimen was about 9 cm long.

Possibly dod ((archaic) rounded, bare hilltop) +‎ -man, in the sense of a creature carrying a hill on its back.[1] The word dod is from dod (to clip, cut or lop off), from Middle English dodden (to shave, shear; to trim (a plant); to poll (cattle); to cut off (someone's head)),[2][3] from dod, dodde (measure of grain),[4] from Old English.

The surveyor sense appears to be based on a misconception by English amateur archaeologist and author Alfred Watkins (1855–1935) in his book The Old Straight Track (1925).[3]



dodman (plural dodmans or dodmen) (East Anglia, dialectal)

  1. A land-based snail.
    • 1538, John Bale, Kynge Johan; published as J[ohn] Payne Collier, editor, Kynge Johan. A Play in Two Parts. [], London: Printed for the Camden Society [], 1838, OCLC 54238302, page 7:
      Yt is as great pyte to se a woman wepe / As yt is to se a sely dodman crepe, / Or, as ye wold say, a sely goose go barefote.
    • 1670, Francis Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban [Francis Bacon], “Century VIII”, in Sylva Sylvarum, or, A Natural History, in Ten Centuries. [], 9th and last edition, London: Printed by J[ohn] R[edmayne] for William Lee, [], OCLC 42391224, page 154:
      The Creatures that caſt their Skin are, the Snake, the Viper, the Grashopper, the Lizard, the Silk-worm, &c. Thoſe that caſt their Shell are, the Lobſter, the Crab, the Cra-fish, the Hodmandod or Dodman, the Tortoise, &c. The old Skins are found, but the old Shells never: So as it is like they ſcale off, and crumble away by degrees.
    • 1674, N[athaniel] Fairfax; S[amuel] P[arker], A Treatise of the Bulk and Selvedge of the World: [], London: Printed for Robert Boulter [...], OCLC 802089733, page 125; quoted in John Greaves Nall, “A Glossary of East Anglian Provincialisms. []”, in An Etymological and Comparative Glossary of the Dialect and Provincialisms of East Anglia, with Illustrations Derived from Native Authors, London: Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer, 1866, OCLC 503898140, page 542:
      Dodman [] In that a Snayl or Dodman, which is not only not warm, but to our feeling very cold, is fain to brood its as cold sweaty eggs, nested upon a cold wet earth, bespewing them about with the fuzze of a cold clammy froth, in coldish [d]raughty weather, and all making way to a kind and timely hatching.
      The page number of the 1674 work is stated in the 1847 quotation below.
    • [1823, Edward Moor, “Hodmandod”, in Suffolk Words and Phrases; or, An Attempt to Collect the Lingual Localisms of that County, Woodbridge, Suffolk: Printed by J. Loder, for R. Hunter [], OCLC 156107295, page 174:
      A snail is also called Dodman in Suffolk and Norfolk.]
    • 1850 November 14, Charles Dickens, “My ‘First Half’ at Salem House”, in The Personal History of David Copperfield, London: Bradbury & Evans, OCLC 63963296; republished as The Personal History of David Copperfield. [...] In Three Volumes (Collection of British Authors; 175), volume I, Tauchniz edition, Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchniz, 1850, OCLC 781156679, page 144:
      "[...] I'm a reg'lar Dodman, I am," said Mr. Peggotty, by which he meant snail, and this was his allusion to being slow to go, for he had attempted to go after every sentence, and had somehow or other come back again; "but I wish you both well, and I wish you happy!"
  2. A snail's shell.
  3. Any shellfish which casts its shell, such as a lobster.
  4. (rare, possibly erroneous) A surveyor.

Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ Bryan Kozlowski (2016), “Dodman”, in What the Dickens?!: Distinctly Dickensian Words and How to Use Them, Philadelphia, Pa.: Running Press, →ISBN.
  2. ^ dodden, v.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 14 August 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hodmandod” in Michael Quinion, World Wide Words[1], 19 April 2014.
  4. ^ dod(de, n.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 14 August 2017.

Further reading[edit]