verb (used without object), pad·dled, pad·dling.

verb (used with object), pad·dled, pad·dling.


    paddle one's own canoe. canoe(def 6).

Origin of paddle

1375–1425; late Middle English padell (noun)
Related formspad·dler, noun



verb (used without object), pad·dled, pad·dling.

to move the feet or hands playfully in shallow water; dabble.
to toy with the fingers.
to toddle.

Origin of paddle

First recorded in 1520–30; origin uncertain
Related formspad·dler, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for paddle

Contemporary Examples of paddle

Historical Examples of paddle

  • It was laid by the Monarch, a paddle steamer which had been fitted for the work.

  • Neither of them spoke, and the only sound was the swishing of the paddle.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • Then, setting the canoe into the water, he began to paddle back.

  • "One of us might paddle the canoe to the foot of the cliff," went on Frank.

  • Then, without a word, they resumed their steady, easy swing of the paddle.

British Dictionary definitions for paddle




a short light oar with a flat blade at one or both ends, used without a rowlock to propel a canoe or small boat
Also called: float a blade of a water wheel or paddle wheel
a period of paddlingto go for a paddle upstream
  1. a paddle wheel used to propel a boat
  2. (as modifier)a paddle steamer
the sliding panel in a lock or sluicegate that regulates the level or flow of water
any of various instruments shaped like a paddle and used for beating, mixing, etc
a table-tennis bat
the flattened limb of a seal, turtle, or similar aquatic animal, specialized for swimming


to propel (a canoe, small boat, etc) with a paddle
paddle one's own canoe
  1. to be self-sufficient
  2. to mind one's own business
(tr) to convey by paddlingwe paddled him to the shore
(tr) to stir or mix with or as if with a paddle
to row (a boat) steadily, esp (of a racing crew) to row firmly but not at full pressure
(intr) (of steamships) to be propelled by paddle wheels
(intr) to swim with short rapid strokes, like a dog
(tr) US and Canadian informal to spank
Derived Formspaddler, noun

Word Origin for paddle

C15: of unknown origin



verb (mainly intr)

to walk or play barefoot in shallow water, mud, etc
to dabble the fingers, hands, or feet in water
to walk unsteadily, like a baby
(tr) archaic to fondle with the fingers


the act of paddling in water
Derived Formspaddler, noun

Word Origin for paddle

C16: of uncertain 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 paddle

c.1400, padell "small spade," from Medieval Latin padela, of uncertain origin, perhaps from Latin patella "small pan, little dish, plate," diminutive of patina (see pan (n.)).

Meaning "short oar with a wide blade" is from 1620s. As an instrument used for beating clothes (and slaves, and schoolboys), it is recorded from 1828, American English. Paddle-ball attested from 1935.


"to dabble, wade in water," 1520s, probably cognate with Low German paddeln "tramp about," frequentative of padjen "to tramp, to run in short steps," from pad (v.). Related: Paddled; paddling. Meaning "to move in water by means of paddles" is a different word (see paddle (v.3)).


"to beat with a paddle, spank," 1856, from paddle (n.). Related: Paddled; paddling.


"to move in water by means of paddles," 1670s, from paddle (n.). To paddle one's (own) canoe "do for oneself" is from 1828.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with paddle


In addition to the idiom beginning with paddle

  • paddle one's own canoe

also see:

  • up the creek (without a paddle)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.