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Etymology 1[edit]

Possibly from the Middle English term for a short knife, by extension, leading to the shallow plow, and from there to other more metaphoric meanings. Related to spud.


spuddle (third-person singular simple present spuddles, present participle spuddling, simple past and past participle spuddled)

  1. To loosen and dig up stubble and weeds left after a harvest with a broadshare or similar device.
    • 1785, Arthur Young, Annals of Agriculture and Other Useful Arts, volume 4, page 230:
      Do you shim those stubbles before ploughing? Answer. No; but I spuddle them, to make the ground as clean as possible. Spuddling is performed with the plough, and is of the nature of shiming.
    • 1799, John Banister, A Synopsis of Husbandry, page 111- 112:
      In order to destroy what few weeds may remain in the rows, and to give that part of the ground its due share of pulverization, and to cleanse it from the bean haulm, a plough is set to work soon after harvest, to spuddle the gratten; and for this purpose a plate of iron is fixed across the share at about four or five inches from the point, and the same axletree and wheels are made use of that were before employed for striking out the furrows; and with this plough and two horses, three acres of ground may be spuddled in a day, by setting the share point in the interval, so that the iron or fin may embrace a row on each side; and when the whole field is thus spuddled, the harrows and roll are to succeed, by which the haulm and weeds will be completely extricated at a trifling charge, and the ground be laid in readiness for ploughing the seed furrows, at which time those beans or pease which may have been shed, will have vegetated, and are destroyed by the plough; so that the farmer may from this mode of husbandry be not less confident of growing a clean sample of wheat, than if his ground had been summer fallowed.
    • 1864, William Bland (of Hartlip.), The Principles of Agriculture, page 23:
      When land proves to be very foul after harvest, it is best, first to shallow, spuddle, or broadshare the surface, harrow up the weeds, cart them to a mixen, or burn them on the spot:
    • 1927, Arthur Amos, “Stubble or Autumn cleaning”, in Agriculture, volume 33, page 393:
      Thus the Kent farmer with his long-cherished wooden plough, for which he has been the recipient of much ridicule, converts this same wooden plough into a broadshare as soon as his corn is cut, and with this ancient implement proceeds to “broadshare“ spuddle his stubbles.
  2. (by extension, chiefly dialect) To shallowly dig or stir up in an unsystematic manner.
    • 1829 August 15, William Cobbett, “To the Farmers of England, On the Causes of their present Distress, and on the Remedies for the same.”, in Cobbett's Weekly Political Register, volume 67, page 207:
      Instead of an "occasional gardener" to trim up the walks, and to hoe, your wife will be as happy as a queen, and your daughters as princesses, to spuddle about now and then, and have little flower gardens, and herb beds.
    • 1869, John Taylor, The Works of John Taylor, the Water-poet:
      Hee grubs and spuddles for his prey in muddy holes and obscure cauernes, my Mufe ferrits base debaushed wretches in their swinish dens.
    • 1993, Wilfredo Pascua Sanchez, “Gethsemane”, in Luis Francia, editor, Brown River, White Ocean, page 247:
      Leviathan fouls and spuddles again my possessions and my father's house
    • 2001, Daniel J. Vitkus, ‎Nabil I. Matar, Piracy, Slavery, and Redemption, page 290:
      And they say that in the very place where the child spuddled with his feet, the water flowed out.
    • 2020, Carey McIntosh, Semantics and Cultural Change in the British Enlightenment, page 31:
      Molehills had to be spuddled.
  3. (obsolete, Southern England) To make a lot of fuss about trivial things, as if they were important[1]
    • 1902, Met Lawson Saley, Realm of the Retailer, page 336:
      During all the years that I spuddled around in a porcelain bath tub in a city I was given to regarding the farmer somewhat as the caricaturist, who wears his spring overcoat all winter and sells jokes for 10 cents each to the newspapers, painted him.
  4. (obsolete) To work ineffectively; to work hard but achieve nothing
    • 1780, Mrs. Gunning (Susannah), ‎Margaret Minifie, The Count de Poland - Volume 4, page 249:
      In what glooın are you all left to spuddle out your way through the road of life?
    • 1863, William Barnes, Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect, page 20:
      Why you do spuddle So weak's a child. How you do muddle! Gi'e me the speäde.
    • 1893, Walter Raymond, Gentleman Upcott's Daughter, page 57:
      "There! that's how she do bide an' spuddle about," said Uncle Granger contemptuously.
    • 2017, Ruth Pavey, A Wood of One's Own:
      Unless you own the land you are not free to grow things where you like, to make mistakes, to spuddle about, as my cousin puts it.


spuddle (plural spuddles)

  1. A mess or confusion.
    • 1987, William Lehr, Shrinking: A Novel, page 13:
      There you go again, making spuddle of whatever I say.
    • 2007, David Ashbee, Loss Adjuster, page 127:
      All we utter thus when bakelite spuddle Steamified and scorchy Make of our tongue a fat Q.
    • 2022, John Glynn, Twofold:
      Better to break out and seek progression. You don't want to be a spuddle.
  2. An argument or dispute.
    • 1996, Elizabeth Forrest, The Garbage Boy, page 118:
      They had a right spuddle together — poor maid was crying, like, and then ' e made off.
    • 2000, New Statesman - Volume 129, Issues 4481-4492, page 29:
      Tis you they fear for spinshine and for spuddle
    • 2011, R. F. Delderfield, Long Summer Day:
      Us'll have a proper spuddle bevore us is done, you see if I baint right, sir!'


  1. ^ Wright, Joseph (1904) The English Dialect Dictionary[1], volume 5, Oxford: Oxford University Press, page 697

Etymology 2[edit]

Related to puddle


spuddle (plural spuddles)

  1. A patch of wet mud or similar substance, more viscous than a puddle.
    • 1920, Lindley Grant Long, Farmer Hiram on the World's War, page 177:
      'Twuz tit fer tat sure, in a spuddle uv mud , And everything plastered all over with blood.
    • 1989, Edna O'Brien, On the Bone, page 6:
      In puddle and spuddle They staggered.
  2. A process combining spraying and puddling.
    • 1987, Walter Scot Ruska, Microelectronic Processing, page 140:
      A steady stream rather than a mist may be projected onto the wafer, or dispense may occur without rotation to form a “puddle." There is also a combination puddle and spray technique called “spuddle” developing.
    • 1994, Advances in Resist Technology and Processing, page 776:
      First, a screening trial using the same develop and etch times and half the reagent volumes of the established "spuddle" process performed on an APT model 9145 machine which serves as a reference method.


Middle English[edit]



  1. a short knife