• 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.
Show More
  1. mentally confused; muddled.
  2. rotten: addle eggs.
Show More

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 for addling

mystify, baffle, perplex, bewilder, discombobulate, befuddle, muddy, disconcert, muddle, confound, puzzle, fuddle

Examples from the Web for addling

Historical Examples of addling

  • This is a beast of a letter, but I am not well, and have been addling my head.

    The Letters of Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens

  • She read feverishly all she could find on the subject, ending by addling her brains to the point of frenzy.

    The Sturdy Oak

    Samuel Merwin, et al.

  • And what in the world do you want to be addling your brains with a Latin grammar for, when there's other need for your eyes?


    A.E.W. Mason

British Dictionary definitions for addling


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

Word Origin for addle

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)
Show More

Word Origin for addle

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 addling



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.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper