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A common gudgeon (Gobio gobio; etymology 1, sense 1).
A drawing of a spinycheek sleeper (Eleotris pisonis), often called a gudgeon (etymology 1, sense 2).

Etymology 1[edit]

The noun is derived from Late Middle English gojoun [and other forms],[1] from Old French gojon, goujon (gudgeon), from Late Latin gōbiōnem, the accusative of gōbiō, the augmentative of Latin gōbius (gudgeon),[2] from Ancient Greek κωβῐός (kōbiós, fish of the gudgeon kind), probably of Semitic origin. The English word is a doublet of goby and goujon.

The verb is derived from the noun.[3]


gudgeon (plural gudgeons)

  1. A small freshwater fish, Gobio gobio, that is native to Eurasia.
    Synonyms: goby, (Britain, dialectal) wapper
  2. (Canada) Cottus bairdii, more widely known as mottled sculpin.
  3. (Australia) Any of various similar small fish of the family Eleotridae, often used as bait.
    Synonym: sleeper goby
    • 2012 October 5, Nicola Gage, “Murray Showing Signs of Recovery”, in ABC News[1], Sydney, N.S.W., archived from the original on 1 November 2019:
      The southern purple-spotted gudgeon [Mogurnda adspersa] can be hard to find. Although colourful, they are thin and only grow up to 12 centimetres.
  4. Other fish, similar in appearance, principally in families Butidae and Eleotridae, but also in others.
  5. (figurative, archaic) A person apt to take the bait; one easily cheated or duped; also, an idiot.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:dupe, Thesaurus:idiot
    • 1713, Jonathan Swift, “Horace, Epistle VII. Book I. Imitated and Addressed to the Earl of Oxford, in the Year 1713”, in Miscellanies. The Last Volume, London: [] Benjamin Motte, [], published 1733, →OCLC, page 149, lines 73–80:
      The Doctor now obeys the Summons, / Likes both his Company, and Commons; / Diſplays his Talent, ſits till Ten; / Next Day invited, comes again; / Soon grows Domeſtick, ſeldom fails, / Either at Morning, or at Meals; / Came early, and departed late: / In ſhort, the Gudgeon took the Bait.
    • 1925 July – 1926 May, A[rthur] Conan Doyle, “(please specify the chapter number)”, in The Land of Mist (eBook no. 0601351h.html), Australia: Project Gutenberg Australia, published April 2019:
      "Is it not also known that you two innocents were doing the Churches week by week? Was it not patent that sooner or later you would come to a Spiritualist gathering? Here was a chance for a convert! They set a bait and poor old gudgeon Malone came along and swallowed it."
    • 2004, Robert Jordan, “Making Use of Invisibility”, in New Spring, New York, N.Y.: Tor Books, Tom Doherty Associates, →ISBN, page 298:
      "Don't be a gudgeon," she grumbled, tugging at the dress much more fiercely than was necessary. "If this works as you say it will, nobody will notice me."
  6. (figurative, archaic) Something used to lure or tempt; bait, a lure.
Derived terms[edit]


gudgeon (third-person singular simple present gudgeons, present participle gudgeoning, simple past and past participle gudgeoned)

  1. (transitive, archaic) To deprive (someone) fraudulently; to cheat, to dupe.
  2. (intransitive, archaic) To take the bait; to be defrauded or duped.

Etymology 2[edit]

An illustration of a pintle and a gudgeon (etymology 2, sense 1) which fits into it to form a pivoting joint.
A rudder system of a boat making use of pintles (blue, number 2) and gudgeons (etymology 2, sense 1.1; green, number 3).

From Middle English gojoun (metal fitting with a ring at one end) [and other forms],[4] from Old French goujon (dowel; pin) [and other forms], from gouge (gouge (tool))[5] + -on (suffix forming diminutives). Gouge is derived from Late Latin gulbia, gubia (chisel), ultimately from Proto-Celtic *gulbā, *gulbīnos (beak, bill).


gudgeon (plural gudgeons)

  1. (also attributively) A circular or cylindrical fitting, often made of metal, into which a pin or pintle fits to create a hinge or pivoting joint.
  2. (nautical, specifically) In a vessel with a stern-mounted rudder: the fitting into which the pintle of the rudder fits, allowing the rudder to swing freely.
    Synonym: brace
    • 1792, William Bligh, chapter VII, in A Voyage to the South Sea, [] in His Majesty’s Ship The Bounty, [], London: [] George Nicol, [], →OCLC, page 83:
      This afternoon the gudgeon of the rudder belonging to the large cutter, was drawn out and ſtolen, without being perceived by the man that was ſtationed to take care of her.
Alternative forms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ gojǒun, n.(1)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ gudgeon, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1900; gudgeon1, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ gudgeon, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1900.
  4. ^ gojǒun, n.(2)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  5. ^ gudgeon2, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022; compare gudgeon, n.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1900.

Further reading[edit]