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From Middle English fetlen (to ready, fix, arrange, prepare), of obscure origin. Perhaps from Old English fetian (to fetch) or from Old English fetel (belt, girdle). Compare Old English ġefetelsod (provided with a belt; trimmed, polished, ornamented).


  • IPA(key): /ˈfɛtəl/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛtəl


fettle (plural fettles)

  1. A state of proper physical condition; kilter or trim.
    • 1979 August, P.R.G Kennard, “Polish steam panorama”, in Railway World, page 421:
      These strong 2-8-2s [...] appeared in good fettle, especially those shedded at Lublin and several arrivals and departures were photographed in the fine evening light.
  2. One's mental state; spirits.
  3. Sand used to line a furnace.
  4. (Tyneside, Cumbria) A person's mood or state, often assuming the worst.
    What's yer fettle marra?
  5. (ceramics) a seam line left by the meeting of mold pieces.
  6. (UK, dialect) The act of fettling.

Usage notes[edit]

Outside of dialects, this noun is a fossil, found only in the phrase in fine fettle; but the verb and the corresponding gerund remain in common use in British English (for example, "this will need a bit of fettling to get sorted").

Derived terms[edit]



fettle (third-person singular simple present fettles, present participle fettling, simple past and past participle fettled)

  1. (especially Northern England) To sort out, to fix, to mend, to repair.
  2. (intransitive) To make preparations; to put things in order; to do trifling business.
    • c. 1600, Joseph Hall, Satires
      Nor list he now go whistling to the car,
      But sells his team , and fettleth to the war
  3. (transitive) To line the hearth of a furnace with sand prior to pouring molten metal.
  4. (reflexive, Tyneside) To be upset or in a bad mood.
    Divint fettle yersel ower that!
  5. In ceramics, to remove (as by sanding) the seam lines left by the meeting of two molds.
  6. (transitive, archaic) To prepare.
    • 1595, William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet:
      But fettle your fine joints 'gainst Thursday next...

Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]


  • fettle in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.
  • Newcastle 1970s, Scott Dobson and Dick Irwin, [2]
  • Frank Graham (1987) The New Geordie Dictionary, →ISBN
  • Northumberland Words, English Dialect Society, R. Oliver Heslop, 1893–4
  • A List of words and phrases in everyday use by the natives of Hetton-le-Hole in the County of Durham, F.M.T.Palgrave, English Dialect Society vol.74, 1896, [3]
  • Todd's Geordie Words and Phrases, George Todd, Newcastle, 1977[4]