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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English janglen (to talk excessively, chatter; to talk idly, gossip; to nag; to complain, grumble; to argue, debate; to discuss, talk; to talk indistinctly, jabber; to make a noise or outcry; of a bird: to chatter, twitter) [and other forms],[1] from Old French jangler (to chatter, gossip; to argue noisily; to bawl) [and other forms]; further etymology uncertain, perhaps from Old Dutch *jangelon (to jeer) (compare Middle Dutch jangelen (to murmur, grumble, buzz, mutter, drone, simmer), modern Dutch jengelen (to whine, persistently nag, whimper), though the Oxford English Dictionary finds this improbable) and ultimately imitative.[2]


jangle (third-person singular simple present jangles, present participle jangling, simple past and past participle jangled)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To cause (something) to make a rattling metallic sound.
    2. To express or say (something) in an argumentative or harsh manner.
    3. (figuratively) To irritate or jar (something).
      The sound from the next apartment jangled my nerves.
  2. (intransitive)
    1. To make a rattling metallic sound.
      • a. 1678, Tho[mas] Manton, “[The Transfiguration of Christ.] Sermon II.”, in Christs Temptation and Transfiguration, Practically Explained and Improved in Several Sermons, London: [s.n.], published 1685, →OCLC, pages 43–44:
        A ſincere Heart that would ſerve God with his beſt, findeth more in a duty, than he could expect: and by Praying gets more of the fervency and Ardours of praying, as a Bell may be long a raiſing, but when it is up it jangleth not as it did at firſt.
      • 1920, [Elizabeth von Arnim], In the Mountains, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, page 43:
        There is hardly a week without some saint in it who has to be commemorated, and often there are two in the same week, and sometimes three. I know when we have reached another saint, for then the church bells of the nearest village begin to jangle, and go on doing it every two hours.
    2. (archaic) To speak in an angry or harsh manner.
      • 1745, “The Prophesie of Waldhave”, in The Whole Prophecies of Scotland, England, France, Ireland and Denmark; [], Edinburgh, London: [] M[ary] Cooper, [], →OCLC, page 25:
        What jangleſt thou Jedburgh? thou jags for nought, / There ſhal a guilful groom dwell thee within, / The towre that thou truſts in, as the truth is, / Shal be traced with a trace, trow thou none other: []
      • 1837, Thomas Carlyle, “Fatherland in Danger”, in The French Revolution: A History [], volume III (The Guillotine), London: James Fraser, [], →OCLC, book III (The Girondins), page 184:
        Prussian Trenck, the poor subterranean Baron, jargons and jangles in an unmelodious manner.
      • 1843 April, Thomas Carlyle, “Working Aristocracy”, in Past and Present, American edition, Boston, Mass.: Charles C[offin] Little and James Brown, published 1843, →OCLC, book II (The Ancient Monk), page 108:
        [T]hat brutish god-forgetting Profit-and-Loss Philosophy and Life-theory which we hear jangled on all hands of us, in senate-houses, sporting-clubs, leading-articles, pulpits, and platforms, everywhere as the Ultimate Gospel and candid Plain-English of Man's Life, from the throats and pens and thoughts of all but all men!
    3. (archaic) To quarrel verbally; to wrangle.
      Synonym: squabble
    4. (Northern England) Of a person: to speak loudly or too much; to chatter, to prate; of a bird: to make a noisy chattering sound.
      • 1791, Oliver Goldsmith, “Of the Nightingale, and Other Soft-billed Song-birds”, in An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature. [], new edition, volume V, London: [] F[rancis] Wingrave, successor to Mr. [John] Nourse, [], →OCLC, page 293:
        It was uſual then about midnight, when there was no noiſe in the houſe, but all ſtill, to hear the two nightingales jangling, and talking with each other, and plainly imitating men's diſcourſes.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English jangle (gossip, idle talk; a dispute),[3] from Anglo-Norman jangle and Old French jangle (gossip, idle talk; a dispute), from Old French jangler (to chatter, gossip; to argue noisily; to bawl): see further at etymology 1. Later uses are derived directly from the verb.[4]

Sense 3 (“sound typified by undistorted, treble-heavy electric guitars”) is said to derive from a line in the song Mr. Tambourine Man (1965) by the American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan (born 1941): “Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me / In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come following you.”[5]


jangle (countable and uncountable, plural jangles)

  1. A rattling metallic sound; a clang.
  2. (figuratively)
    1. The sound of people talking noisily.
    2. (archaic) Arguing, contention, squabbling.
      Synonyms: altercation, bickering
      • 1642 (indicated as 1641), John Milton, “That Church Governement is Set Downe in Holy Scripture, and that to Say Otherwise is Untrue”, in The Reason of Church-governement Urg’d against Prelaty [], London: [] E[dward] G[riffin] for Iohn Rothwell, [], →OCLC, 1st book, page 8:
        [I]t may be juſtly ask't, whether Timothy by this here written might know what was to be knowne concerning the orders of Church-governours or no? If he might, then in ſuch a cleere text as this may we know too without further jangle; []
      • 1777, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The School for Scandal, II.i:
        But now Sir Peter if we have finish'd our daily Jangle I presume I may go to my engagement at Lady Sneerwell's?
      • 1840 May 8, Thomas Carlyle, “Lecture II. The Hero as Prophet. Mahomet: Islam.”, in On Heroes, Hero-Worship and The Heroic in History, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1840, →OCLC, page 58:
        Homoiousion, Homoousion, vain logical jangle, then or before or at any time, may jangle itself out, and go whither and how it likes: this is the thing it all struggles to mean, if it would mean anything.
  3. (music, attributively) A sound typified by undistorted, treble-heavy electric guitars, played in a droning chordal style, characteristic of 1960s folk rock and 1980s indie rock music.
    Synonym: jingle-jangle
Usage notes[edit]

A jangle is somewhat harsher than a jingle.

Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ janglen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ jangle, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2020; “jangle, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ jangle, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ jangle, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2021; “jangle, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  5. ^ See, for example, Steve LaBate (18 December 2009), “Jangle Bell Rock: A Chronological (Non-Holiday) Anthology … from The Beatles and Byrds to R.E.M. and Beyond”, in Paste[1], Decatur, Ga.: Paste Media Group, →ISSN, archived from the original on 2019-03-27: “The term itself comes both from The Byrds’ cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ (‘in the jingle-jangle morning’) and also from the shrill (jangly) sound of the guitars.”

Further reading[edit]