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The equipment for a tiddlywinks set (sense 1), consisting of the pot (left), the tiddlywinks (smaller discs), and squidgers (larger discs).

From tiddlywink +‎ -s, possibly from tiddly ((informal) little, tiny) +‎ wink (blinking of one eye), perhaps borrowed from tiddlywink, etymology 1 (“unlicensed beerhouse or pawnshop; game played using dominoes”, etc.).[1] The game was patented by a British bank clerk, Joseph Assheton Fincher (1863–1900), on 19 October 1889,[2] and the name Tiddledy-Winks trademarked by him the same year.[3] Tiddlywinks is the preferred modern spelling; the earliest known use of this spelling dates from 1894.



tiddlywinks pl (plural only)

  1. (tiddlywinks, also attributively) A competitive game in which the objective is to flick as many small discs (each called a tiddlywink or wink) as possible into a container (the pot) by pressing on their edges with a larger disc (a shooter or squidger), causing them to jump up from the surface on which they are placed.
    Synonym: (informal) winks
    • [1890 January 18, M. D., “Queries. [Kiddlewink.]”, in Notes and Queries: A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, General Readers, etc., volume IX (7th Series), number 212, London: Published [] [b]y John C. Francis, →OCLC, page 48, column 2:
      Can any of your correspondents inform me what is the derivation of the word "kiddlewink," or "tiddledy winks"? A friend tells me in the Midland Counties it denotes a house where beer is sold without a licence. Lately a game has been introduced here bearing the name of "Tiddledywinks."]
    • 1894 August, Henrietta O[ctavia] Barnett, “The Home or the Barrack for the Children of the State”, in The Contemporary Review, volume LXVI, London: Isbister and Company [], →OCLC, page 246:
      Recreation rooms were provided for both boys and girl, and the long winter evenings were anything but dreary, for when school was done and work over the children gathered in the brilliantly lit, hot-pipe-heated rooms and played draughts, bagatelle, lotto, or tiddly-winks.
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, “[Episode 17: Ithaca]”, in Ulysses, Paris: Shakespeare and Company, [], →OCLC, part III [Nostos], page 638:
      What had been his hypothetical singular solutions? Parlour games (dominos, halma, tiddledywinks, spilikins, cup and ball, nap, spoil five, bezique, twentyfive, beggar my neighbour, draughts, chess or backgammon): []
    • 1926 September, “The Bookman’s Guide to Fiction”, in John Farrar, editor, The Bookman, volume LXIV, number 1, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, →OCLC, page 90, column 1:
      MantrapSinclair LewisHarcourt, Brace. The great realist plays an amusing game of tiddlywinks in the north woods.
  2. (figurative) Especially in the form to play tiddlywinks: a meaningless or unimportant activity.

Alternative forms[edit]


See also[edit]

tiddlywinks terminology



  1. plural of tiddlywink



  1. third-person singular simple present indicative of tiddlywink


  1. ^ Compare “tiddlywink, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ Joseph Assheton Fincher (filed 8 November 1888) Provisional Specification. A New and Improved Game (no. 16,215), London: [] [F]or Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, by Darling & Son, Ltd., published 1889, reproduced at “Tiddledy-Winks Patent: 1888, Joseph Assheton Fincher”, in Tiddlywinks.org[1], updated 8 February 2019, archived from the original on 2021-02-24.
  3. ^ “TIDDLEDY-WINKS”, in The Trade Marks Journal, issue 581, London: Patent Office, filed 29 January 1889, approved 15 May 1889, →OCLC, page 476.

Further reading[edit]