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From Middle English spudde (small knife). Origin unknown; probably related to Danish spyd, Old Norse spjót (spear), German Spieß (spear; spike; skewer). Compare English spit (sharp, pointed rod).



spud (plural spuds)

  1. (obsolete) A dagger. [from mid-15th c.]
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Holland to this entry?)
  2. A tool, similar to a spade, used for digging out weeds etc. [From 1660s.]
    • 1728, Jonathan Swift, A Pastoral Dialogue, 1910, William Browning (editor), The Poems of Jonathan Swift, Volume 2, 2004, Gutenberg eBook #13621,
      My love to Sheelah is more firmly fixt, / Than strongest weeds that grow these stones betwixt: / My spud these nettles from the stone can part; / No knife so keen to weed thee from my heart.
    • 1885, Richard Jefferies, After London: or Wild England, 2004 [1905], Gutenberg eBook #13944,
      Deprived of motion by the blow of the club, it can, on the other hand, be picked up without trouble and without the aid of a dog, and if not dead is despatched by a twist of the Bushman's fingers or a thrust from his spud. The spud is at once his dagger, his knife and fork, his chisel, his grub-axe, and his gouge. It is a piece of iron (rarely or never of steel, for he does not know how to harden it) about ten inches long, an inch and a half wide at the top or broadest end, where it is shaped and sharpened like a chisel, only with the edge not straight but sloping, and from thence tapering to a point at the other, the pointed part being four-sided, like a nail.
    • 1925, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves Takes Charge, Carry On, Jeeves, 2008, Arrow Books, page 19,
      A most respectable old Johnnie, don't you know. Doesn't do a thing nowadays but dig in the garden with a spud.
  3. (tools) A barking spud; a long-handled tool for removing bark from logs.
    Synonym: mut
  4. (informal) A potato. [from 1845]
    • 1927, Boys' Life (May 1927, page 8)
      We were peeling spuds on afternoon detail back of the lodge at summer camp — Billy Dean and I, and two or three more — and as usual arguing about whether the camp work ought to be done that way or not []
  5. A hole in a sock.
    • 1958, M, K. Joseph, I'll Soldier No More: A Novel,
      He leans over to one side to get the light, as he darns a hole in the heel of a sock. He is getting pretty smart at it now, and no longer makes spuds in the sock to chafe his heels.
    • 1990, Ray Salisbury, Sweet Thursday: A Novel,
      He was getting tall too, and his trousers were short even though his turn-ups had been turned down, and he'd got a spud in his socks where his shoe rubbed where he trod over trying to walk bow-legged to look like a cowboy.
    • 2000, Christopher Nolan, The Banyan Tree: A Novel,
      His wife was darning a sock, running a needle and yarn across and back, over and under, up and down, gradually filling in the big spud-hole in her husband's sock.
    • 2007, Trevor Griffiths, Sam, Sam in Theatre Plays One,
      (Already becoming absorbed in his feet through the giant spud in his sock) Anyway, I'm er, I'm sorry. A quite unnecessary embarrassment for you. (He removes sock completely, begins rhythmic rubbing of webs)
  6. (plumbing) A type of short nut (fastener) threaded on both ends.
    • 2003, Rick Peters, Plumbing Basics, →ISBN, page 103:
      With the tank resting upside down on an old towel or blanket, use a spud wrench or a large pair of channel-type pliers to loosen the spud nut.
    • 2011, Steve Ettlinger, The Complete Illustrated Guide to Everything Sold in Hardware Stores, →ISBN:
      For removing or tightening radiator spud nut.
  7. (obsolete) Anything short and thick.
    • 1844, Richard Sainthill, An Olla Podrida: Or, Scraps, Numismatic, Antiquarian, and Literary
      As I turned out of the wood, I heard the shrill tone of infant wailing; and as I came towards the cottage, I saw a fine flaxen-headed urchin, some six or seven years old, stamping and beating himself with his clenched little spuds of fists, in a perfect ecstasy of passion []
  8. (obsolete, US, dialectal) A piece of dough boiled in fat.
  9. (slang, usually in the plural) A testicle.
    a kick in the spuds

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for spud in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)

Derived terms[edit]



spud (third-person singular simple present spuds, present participle spudding, simple past and past participle spudded)

  1. (drilling) To begin drilling an oil well; to drill by moving the drill bit and shaft up and down, or by raising and dropping a bit.
    • 1911, Isaiah Bowman, United States Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 257: Well-Drilling Methods, page 46,
      A rope called the jerk line is attached to the wrist pin of the band-wheel crank, brought inside the derrick, and attached to the part of the drilling cable which extends from the crown pulley to the bull-wheel shaft by a curved metal slide called a spudding shoe. (See fig. 8.)
    • 1999, Steve Devereux, Drilling for Oil & Gas: A Nontechnical Guide, page 86,
      When a well is spudded, the drilling assembly is loosely tied to the guide wires with 1/2″ manila rope.
    • 2008, Ruwan Rajapakse, Pile Design and Construction Rules of Thumb, page 367,
      Spudding is the process of lifting and dropping the pile constantly until the obstruction is broken into pieces. Obviously, spudding cannot be done with lighter piles (timber or pipe piles). Concrete piles and steel H-piles are good candidates for spudding.
    • 2008, J. K. Lasser, J.K. Lasser′s Your Income Tax: 2009, Professional Edition, page 238,
      Prepayments of drilling expenses are deductible by tax-shelter investors only if the well is “spudded” within 90 days after the close of the taxable year in which the prepayment was made, and the deduction is limited to the original amount of the investment.
  2. (roofing) To remove the roofing aggregate and most of the bituminous top coating by scraping and chipping.
  3. (camping) To set up a recreational vehicle (RV) at a campsite, typically by leveling the RV and connecting it to electric, water, and/or sewer hookups.

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  1. A game for three or more players, involving the gradual elimination of players by throwing and catching a ball.