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Uncertain. Perhaps continuing Middle English wedlen (to beg, ask for alms), from Old English wǣdlian (to be poor, be needy, be in want, beg), from Proto-Germanic *wēþlōną (to be in need).

Alternatively (Can this(+) etymology be sourced?), borrowed from German wedeln (to wag one's tail), from Middle High German wedelen, a byform of Middle High German wadelen (to wander, waver, wave, whip, stroke, flutter), from Old High German wādalōn (to wander, roam, rove). In this case, it may be a doublet of waddle, or an independently formed etymological equivalent.

The ⟨wh⟩ spelling (reflecting pronunciations with /ʍ/) is apparently unetymological. (This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium. Particularly: “What is the origin of the "wh"?”)


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈʍiː.dəl/ (without the wine-whine merger)
  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈwiː.dəl/ (with the wine-whine merger)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːdəl


wheedle (third-person singular simple present wheedles, present participle wheedling, simple past and past participle wheedled)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To cajole or attempt to persuade by flattery.
    I’d like one of those, too, if you can wheedle him into telling you where he got it.
  2. (transitive) To obtain by flattery, guile, or trickery.

Derived terms[edit]



wheedle (plural wheedles)

  1. (archaic) A coaxing person.