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verb (used without object), noo·dled, noo·dling.
  1. to improvise a musical passage in a casual manner, especially as a warm-up exercise.
  2. Informal.
    1. to play; toy: to noodle with numbers as a hobby.
    2. to improvise, experiment, or think creatively: The writers noodled for a week and came up with a better idea for the ad campaign.
verb (used with object), noo·dled, noo·dling.
  1. Informal.
    1. to manipulate or tamper with: She denied that she had noodled the statistics to get a favorable result.
    2. to make or devise freely as an exercise or experiment (sometimes followed by up): The architects noodled up a model of a solar house.
Verb Phrases
  1. noodle around, Informal. to play, experiment, or improvise.

Origin of noodle3

An Americanism dating back to 1935–40; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for noodling

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Young ganders and any old ganders or geese which are to be marketed are used for noodling.

    Ducks and Geese

    Harry M. Lamon

  • Noodling geese is a method of hand feeding which has for its purpose the production of the best fattened geese.

    Ducks and Geese

    Harry M. Lamon

British Dictionary definitions for noodling


  1. slang aimless musical improvisation


  1. (often plural) a ribbon-like strip of pasta: noodles are often served in soup or with a sauce

Word Origin

C18: from German Nudel, origin obscure


  1. US and Canadian a slang word for head (def. 1)
  2. a simpleton

Word Origin

C18: perhaps a blend of noddle 1 and noodle 1


  1. (intr) slang to improvise aimlessly on a musical instrument
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for noodling



"narrow strip of dried dough," 1779, from German Nudel, which is of unknown origin. West Flemish noedel and French nouille are German loan-words. The older noun meaning "simpleton, stupid person" (1753) probably is an unrelated word, as is the slang word for "head" (attested from 1914).



1937 (implied in noodling), from noun meaning "improvised music," 1926, probably from noodle (n.), on analogy of the suppleness of the food and that of the trills and improvised phrases in jazz improvisations. Related: Noodled.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper