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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 Frankish *jangelon (to jeer) (compare Middle Dutch jangelen (to whine), 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 1227569337, 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.
    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 837638822, 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 1026761782, 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 191225086, 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. (obsolete) Of a person: to speak loudly or too much; to chatter, to prate; of a bird: to make a noisy chattering sound.
      • [1387–1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Tale of the Nonnes Preest”, in The Canterbury Tales (in Middle English), [Westminster: William Caxton, published 1478], OCLC 230972125; republished in [William Thynne], editor, The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newlye Printed, [], [London]: [] [Richard Grafton for] Iohn Reynes [], 1542, OCLC 932884868, folio xcvii, verso, column 1:
        Nay (qƿ [quoth] yͤ foxe) but god yeue him miſchãce / That is ſo indiſcrete of gouernance / That iangleth, whã that he ſhuld haue pees
        Nay (said the fox) but God gives him misfortune / That is so indiscreet of governance / That jangles when he should hold his peace]
      • 1791, Oliver Goldsmith, “Of the Nightingale, and Other Soft-billed Song-birds”, in An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature. [], volume V, new edition, London: [] F[rancis] Wingrave, successor to Mr. [John] Nourse, [], OCLC 877622212, 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.
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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 (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
  3. (music, attributively) A sound typified by undistorted, treble-heavy electric guitars, characteristic of 1960s pop 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 1540-3106, archived from the original on 27 March 2019: “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.”

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