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Unknown. Perhaps a blend of twirl, twist, or twitch +‎ fiddle.


  • IPA(key): /ˈtwɪdəl/
  • Audio (US):(file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪdəl



twiddle (third-person singular simple present twiddles, present participle twiddling, simple past and past participle twiddled)

  1. (transitive) To wiggle, fidget or play with; to move around.
    She sat and nervously twiddled her hair while she waited.
    • 1942, Emily Carr, “Singing”, in The Book of Small, Toronto, Ont.: Oxford University Press, →OCLC:
      The harder Small sang, the harder the cow chewed and the faster she twiddled her ears around as if stirring the song into the food to be rechewed in cud along with her breakfast.
  2. (transitive, computing) To flip or switch two adjacent bits (binary digits).
    Coordinate term: diddle
  3. (transitive, mathematics) To be in an equivalence relation with.
  4. (intransitive) To play with anything; hence, to be busy about trifles.[1]

Derived terms






twiddle (plural twiddles)

  1. A slight twist with the fingers.
    • 2011, Edgar Pangborn, A Mirror for Observers:
      He put away the reciever with receiver with a twiddle of pudgy fingers.
    • 2018, Corille Fraser, A Coloured Canvas:
      The hero, who must have been only a very few years older than Tom himself, gave a cursory nod and a twiddle of his fingers, then turned to his left to address Daniel Lysons who did not answer but caught Tom's eye and raised his own eyebrow at this rudeness.
  2. A wiggling movement.
    • 1945, James Agate, A Shorter Ego, page 144:
      Why should I agree that a twiddle of skirts from right to left and pointing a toe in one direction mean “ He loves me,” while the reverse twiddle and the toe pointed in the opposite direction "He loves me not”?
    • 1998, James D. Mauseth, Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology, page 522:
      Instead, flagellar motion causes the bacterium to swim smoothly (called a run), then stop and tumble (a twiddle), followed by another period of smooth swimming
    • 2011, Diana Gabaldon, A Breath Of Snow And Ashes, page 223:
      A raised white brow in my direction, and a twiddle of the pipe stem toward the trail indicated that his wife was at our house, if that's who I was looking for.
  3. A small decorative embellishment.
    • 1887, William Morris, The Society of the Future:
      A great many fidgety occupations will come to an end: we shan't put a pattern on a cloth or a twiddle on a jug-handle to sell it, but to make it prettier and to amuse ourselves and others.
    • 2004, Reports of Patent, Design, and Trade Mark Cases:
      Literally construed the Act would allow design right to be claimed in the design of an insignificant part—a mere "twiddle', as it was put in argument.
    • 2012, Nicholas Blake, Head of a Traveller, →ISBN:
      That's Mara's usual line, you know—three curves and a twiddle, label it “Object,” and bob's your uncle.
    • 2020, William Morris, Owen Holland, How I Became A Socialist, page 149:
      A great many fidgety occupations will come to an end : we shan't put a pattern on a cloth or a twiddle on a jug-handle to sell it, but to make it prettier and to amuse ourselves and others.
  4. A small musical flourish.
    • 1899, Truth - Volume 46, page 366:
      . “ Oh, auntie,” she exclaims, “ these great Goths of Englishmen put a twiddle into the last bar of the 'Minstrel Boy,' just fancy that!”
    • 1925, The Musical Times and Singing-class Circular, page 59:
      That opening little flutter down the scale evokes an atmosphere when played by the flute ; on the pianoforte it is a mere twiddle.
    • 2011, Larry Writer, Bumper, →ISBN:
      With a toot on the flute And a twiddle on the fiddle-oh Hopping in the middle Like a herrin' on the griddle-oh
    • 2015, Mark Ribowsky, Dreams to Remember:
      The band came in with a basic rock arrangement, Cropper's triplets stamped by Jackson's metronomic snare and cymbal, and Jenkins added neat little twiddle flourishes.
  5. A tilde.
    • 1985, Yechiam Yemini, Robert Strom, Shaula Yemini, Protocol specification, testing, and verification, →ISBN:
      For those places which feed input arcs leading to more than one transition, a "twiddle" symbol (e.g., '~') may be used as the enabling predicate for one of the transitions.
    • 2004, George G. Woodworth, Biostatistics: A Bayesian Introduction, →ISBN, page 316:
      For example, x ~ dbin(p.n) means that "x is distributed like the number of successes in n observations of a Bernoulli process." Inadvertent use of an "=" sign instead of a twiddle or an arrow is one of the most common reasons for a compilation error message.
  6. A drawn line that is curvy or twisted.
    • 1895, Edward Jewitt Wheeler, Isaac Kaufman Funk, William Seaver Woods, The Literary Digest - Volume 10, page 198:
      It will then be seen that the inscriptions are very nearly alike, but an expert in Arabic or Vedic writing would recognize at once that they differ in more respects than in having a "twiddle too much or a twiddle too little."
    • 1952, Arthur Walsh Titherley, Shakespeare's identity: William Stanley, 6th earl of Derby, page 275:
      But D's flourish was not generally a simple curl but a twiddle,...
    • 2012, Sylvia Townsend Warner, The Music At Long Verney, →ISBN:
      Professional scribes (French, Burgundian, what you will) must sometimes have spoiled a copy – duplicated a word, misplaced a twiddle.
  7. A tiny bit
    • 1968, Mademoiselle: The Magazine for the Smart Young Woman:
      Trying to tune in on your own face color is a bit like that: a twiddle too red, a twiddle too pale,
    • 1987, Eve Bunting, Janet Hamm Needs a Date for the Dance, →ISBN, page 7:
      But I don't care a twiddle if I offend Danny DePuzo or not.
    • 2014, Norman Rose, Harold Nicolson, →ISBN, page cxxxvi:
      It should give you, somewhere, deep-down a twiddle of respect
  8. A tizzy
    • 1938, Grade Teacher - Volume 56, page 46:
      Hey, diddle, diddle, we're all in a twiddle, Although we're cuffed and we're cuffed, To be quite exact we cannot act, For, you see, we are all of us stuffed.
    • 1998, Judy Veisel, Flight of Fancy, page 19:
      Your mother's going to have a twiddle fit if you dumped a perfectly good lord in the river.
    • 2010, Matt Soper, Raising Up a Testimony, →ISBN, page 64:
      In addition, nowhere in the article did I sense that anyone is angry at Serrano or blaming the school for lax security or getting their tighties in a twiddle about this or that.


  1. ^ James Orchard Halliwell (1847) “TWIDDLE”, in A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs, from the Fourteenth Century. [...] In Two Volumes, volumes II (J–Z), London: John Russell Smith, [], →OCLC, page 897, column 1.