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From 1599 or earlier (1530 in a Scottish document), apparently from Shakespeare with this spelling. Perhaps from Middle English mewen (to whimper) +‎ -le (frequentative suffix).



mewl (third-person singular simple present mewls, present participle mewling, simple past and past participle mewled)

  1. To cry weakly with a soft, high-pitched sound; to whimper; to whine.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, As You Like It
      And one man in his time plays many parts, / His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, / Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms; / Then the whining school-boy, ...
    • 1844, Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit
      You're a pretty clog to be tied to a man for life, you mewling, white-faced cat!
    • 2007, Kiesa Kay, Mimosa May, Tornado Alley, page 11,
      My father started rubbing and rubbing on Mittens, scruffying her fur the wrong way, and she mewled her protests.


mewl (plural mewls)

  1. A soft cry or whimper; an act of mewling.
    • 1995, Lídia Jorge, Natália Costa, Ronald W. Sousa (translators), The Murmuring Coast, page 89,
      There would have been total silence if it hadn't been for the sea nearby, mewling. Indeed, that same mewl added to the sleepy image that filled the dormant house.
    • 2009, Mickey Erlach, Cruising for Bad Boys, page 61,
      I let out another moaning mewl, biting my lip as I awaited whatever he planned.
    • 2010, Chris Wooding, Malice, page 15,
      The scratching stopped, and there was another piteous mewl from behind the door.