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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English modelen (attested in present participle modeland (wallowing)), from Middle Dutch moddelen (to make muddy), from modde, mod (mud) (Modern Dutch modder). Compare German Kuddelmuddel.


muddle (third-person singular simple present muddles, present participle muddling, simple past and past participle muddled)

  1. To mix together, to mix up; to confuse.
    Young children tend to muddle their words.
    • 1847, Francis William Newman, A History of the Hebrew Monarchy:
      I will not , to please hostile critics , muddle the argument by making it one of recondite learning , in which neither I nor my readers are strong . I try to lay before the reader reasons from which he can judge for himself
  2. To mash slightly for use in a cocktail.
    He muddled the mint sprigs in the bottom of the glass.
  3. To dabble in mud.
    • c. 1721-1722, Jonathan Swift, The Progress of Marriage
      Young ducklings foster'd by a hen;
      But, when let out, they run and muddle
  4. To make turbid or muddy.
  5. To think and act in a confused, aimless way.
  6. To cloud or stupefy; to render stupid with liquor; to intoxicate partially.
    • 1692, Richard Bentley, [A Confutation of Atheism] (please specify the sermon), London: [Thomas Parkhurst; Henry Mortlock], published 1692–1693:
      Their old master Epicurus seems to have had his brains so muddled and confounded with them, that he scarce ever kept in the right way.
    • 1733, Humphry Polesworth [pseudonym; John Arbuthnot], Alexander Pope, compiler, “Law is a Bottomless Pit. Or, The History of John Bull. []. The Second Part. Chapter VIII. A Continuation of the Conversation betwixt John Bull and His Wife.”, in Miscellanies, 2nd edition, volume II, London: [] Benjamin Motte, [], →OCLC, page 99:
      [] I vvas for five Years often drunk, alvvays muddled, they carry'd me from Tavern to Tavern, to Alehouſes and Brandy Shops, and brought me acquainted vvith ſuch ſtrange Dogs!
  7. To waste or misuse, as one does who is stupid or intoxicated.
    • 1821, William Hazlitt, On the Want of Money:
      They muddle it [money] away without method or object, and without having anything to show for it.
Derived terms[edit]


muddle (plural muddles)

  1. A mixture; a confusion; a garble.
    The muddle of nervous speech he uttered did not have much meaning.
    • 2023 July 24, Jason Horowitz, “What the Collapse of Spain’s Far Right Means Going Forward”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      As a result, no single party or coalition immediately gained enough parliamentary seats to govern, thrusting Spain into a familiar political muddle and giving new life to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who only days ago seemed moribund.
  2. (cooking and cocktails) A mixture of crushed ingredients, as prepared with a muddler.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]


muddle (plural muddles)

  1. (India, historical) A servant's attendant; underservant.
    • 1985, Lizzie Hessel, Ann Brown, Anne Rose, Lizzie: A Victorian Lady's Amazon Adventure, page 132:
      We bought a few rugs and odds and ends and our sitting room looks quite European; then we have a bedroom with 2 beds and a dressing room, also a corridor for the muddles and servants.
    • 2022, Carl Thompson, Katrina O'Loughlin, Éadaoin Agnew, Women's Travel Writings in India 1777–1854, page 201:
      I have an ayah (or lady's maid), and a tailor (for the ayahs cannot work); and A—84 has a boy: also two muddles—one to sweep my room, and another to bring water.