• synonyms


verb (used with or without object), ad·dled, ad·dling.
  1. to make or become confused.
  2. to make or become rotten, as eggs.
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  1. mentally confused; muddled.
  2. rotten: addle eggs.
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Origin of addle

before 1000; Middle English adel rotten, Old English adela liquid, filth; cognate with Middle Low German adele liquid manure
Related formsun·ad·dled, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for addles

Historical Examples

  • They are a bad mixture of French freedom and Spanish haughtiness which addles our brains.

    The Memoires of Casanova, Complete

    Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

  • I say, gently stealing my hand into his; "there is nothing that addles the brains like muddling over accounts, is there?"


    Rhoda Broughton

  • The irresolute man hatches nothing, but addles all his actions.

  • The irresolute man is lifted from one place to another; so hatcheth nothing, but addles all his actions.

    Pearls of Thought

    Maturin M. Ballou

British Dictionary definitions for addles


  1. to make or become confused or muddled
  2. to make or become rotten
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  1. (in combination) indicating a confused or muddled stateaddle-brained; addle-pated
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Word Origin

C18: (vb), back formation from addled, from c13 addle rotten, from Old English adela filth; related to dialect German Addel liquid manure


  1. Northern English dialect to earn (money or one's living)
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Word Origin

C13: addlen, from Old Norse öthlask to gain possession of property, from ōthal property
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 addles



1712, from addle (n.) "urine, liquid filth," from Old English adela "mud, mire, liquid manure" (cognate with Old Swedish adel "urine," Middle Low German adel, Dutch aal "puddle").

Used in noun phrase addle egg (mid-13c.) "egg that does not hatch, rotten egg," literally "urine egg," a loan-translation of Latin ovum urinum, which is itself an erroneous loan-translation of Greek ourion oon "putrid egg," literally "wind egg," from ourios "of the wind" (confused by Roman writers with ourios "of urine," from ouron "urine"). Because of this usage, from c.1600 the noun in English was taken as an adjective meaning "putrid," and thence given a figurative extension to "empty, vain, idle," also "confused, muddled, unsound" (1706). The verb followed a like course. Related: Addled; addling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper