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[nood-l] /ˈnud l/
verb (used without object), noodled, noodling.
to improvise a musical passage in a casual manner, especially as a warm-up exercise.
  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), noodled, noodling.
  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
noodle around, Informal. to play, experiment, or improvise.
Origin of noodle3
1935-40, Americanism; origin uncertain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for noodling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • 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
  • Young ganders and any old ganders or geese which are to be marketed are used for noodling.

    Ducks and Geese Harry M. Lamon
British Dictionary definitions for noodling


(slang) aimless musical improvisation


(often pl) a ribbon-like strip of pasta: noodles are often served in soup or with a sauce
Word Origin
C18: from German Nudel, origin obscure


(US & Canadian) a slang word for head (sense 1)
a simpleton
Word Origin
C18: perhaps a blend of noddle1 and noodle1


(intransitive) (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
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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
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Slang definitions & phrases for noodling

noodle 1


The head; the mind: Most of the fellows running television today are sick in the noodle (1914+)


  1. To play idly at an instrument; improvise lazily: I noodled a bit on it and instantly realized I could express me/ Members of an avian orchestra are already softly noodling (1937+ Musicians)
  2. (also noodle around) To think, esp in a free and discursive way; indulge in mental play: as many drafts and as much noodling as I wanted to/ still noodling around with our calculators and the latest census data (1970s+)
  3. To play; toy: noodling nervously with a glass of water (1970s+)

Related Terms

off one's nut

[origin unknown; the ''play around'' senses perhaps influenced by doodle; noddle in the noun sense is found by 1579]

noodle 2


A stupid person; fool; simpleton •Still predominantly British: Something that noodle at Interior might reflect on

[1753+; origin unknown; perhaps fr noodle the food, fr German nudel, because of its limp and wormlike connotations]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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