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tinker

[ting-ker]
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noun
  1. a mender of pots, kettles, pans, etc., usually an itinerant.
  2. an unskillful or clumsy worker; bungler.
  3. a person skilled in various minor kinds of mechanical work; jack-of-all-trades.
  4. an act or instance of tinkering: Let me have a tinker at that motor.
  5. Scot., Irish English.
    1. a gypsy.
    2. any itinerant worker.
    3. a wanderer.
    4. a beggar.
  6. chub mackerel.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to busy oneself with a thing without useful results: Stop tinkering with that clock and take it to the repair shop.
  2. to work unskillfully or clumsily at anything.
  3. to do the work of a tinker.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to mend as a tinker.
  2. to repair in an unskillful, clumsy, or makeshift way.
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Origin of tinker

1225–75; Middle English tinkere (noun), syncopated variant of tinekere worker in tin
Related formstin·ker·er, nounun·tin·kered, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tinkering

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The carpenter took more than a day, tinkering at an old ship's boat.

    Romance

    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

  • With which confession Hooker resumed his tinkering on the motorcycle.

  • "Tinkering with that old thing again, I see," coughed Rackliff.

  • Banasel was engaged in his usual pastime of tinkering with the equipment.

    The Players

    Everett B. Cole

  • He said it was out of order, and he's tinkering with it the last few days.


British Dictionary definitions for tinkering

tinker

noun
  1. (esp formerly) a travelling mender of pots and pans
  2. a clumsy worker
  3. the act of tinkering
  4. Scot and Irish another name for Gypsy
  5. British informal a mischievous child
  6. any of several small mackerels that occur off the North American coast of the Atlantic
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verb
  1. (intr foll by with) to play, fiddle, or meddle (with machinery, etc), esp while undertaking repairs
  2. to mend (pots and pans) as a tinker
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Derived Formstinkerer, noun

Word Origin

C13 tinkere, perhaps from tink tinkle, of imitative origin
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 tinkering

tinker

n.

"mender of kettles, pots, pans, etc.," mid-13c. (as a surname), of uncertain origin. Some connect the word with the sound made by light hammering on metal. The verb meaning "to keep busy in a useless way" is first found 1650s. Tinker's damn "something slight and worthless" is from 1824, probably simply preserving tinkers' reputation for free and casual use of profanity; more elaborate derivations exist, but seem to be just-so stories without evidence.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tinkering

tinker

In addition to the idiom beginning with tinker

also see:

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.