Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Alternative forms[edit]


  • IPA(key): /ˈhɪɡəldiˌpɪɡəldi/
  • (file)

Etymology 1[edit]

A reduplicated rhyming compound. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests a possible link to pig, since the animals huddle in irregular groups, but notes that the connection is uncertain. Attested since the late sixteenth century.


higgledy-piggledy (comparative more higgledy-piggledy, superlative most higgledy-piggledy)

  1. In utter disorder or confusion; mixed up.
    I can't find your memo since my desk is all higgledy-piggledy.
    • 1911H. G. Wells, The Country of the Blind
      The houses of the central village were quite unlike the casual and higgledy-piggledy agglomeration of the mountain villages he knew.
    • 1937Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fireside Chat, 12 October
      For many years we have all known that the executive and administrative departments of the Government in Washington are a higgledy-piggledy patchwork of duplicate responsibilities and overlapping powers.
    • 1930Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness
      The world is a higgledy-piggledy place, with things pleasant and unpleasant occurring in no particular sequence.
    • 2022, Ronald Mann, Justices debate state’s right to take tort recoveries from Medicaid beneficiaries, in: SCOTUSblog, 2022-01-11
      Breyer was not so direct, but was plainly uncomfortable with the state’s “higgledy-piggledy” reading, which he compared unfavorably to Gallardo’s request that the court interpret the provisions “consistently with the whole spirit of the thing, which is to leave the money with the Medicaid victim.”


higgledy-piggledy (comparative more higgledy-piggledy, superlative most higgledy-piggledy)

  1. In a confused, disordered, or random way.
    • 1881, James Greenwood, chapter 11, in Low-Life Deeps:
      There is no kind of arrangement as regards the buildings they are erected "higgledy-piggledy;" backs to fronts, anyhow, with narrow passages between.


higgledy-piggledy (plural higgledy-piggledies)

  1. A disordered jumble; a confusion.
    • 1779, Thomas Medley, The Shandymonian, subtitle:
      A Higgledy-Piggledy of Controversies and Opinions on various intereſting Subjects


Etymology 2[edit]

Self-reference to the form of the word higgledy-piggledy.


higgledy-piggledy (plural higgledy-piggledies)

English Wikipedia has an article on:
  1. A double-dactyl; a short poem with eight lines in dactylic meter.
    • 1980, Gyles Brandreth, The Joy of Lex, page 123:
      Higgledy-piggledies are more sophisticated than clerihews: they comprise double dactyls and rhymes and aren't always biographical.
  2. Any of various word games using rhyming compounds or dactylic words or phrases.
    • 1994, Herbert Kohl, Masters' Word Game Collection, page 249:
      The games are a bit archaically presented, but they include palindromes, acrostics, higgledy-piggledies, anagrams, etc.