1. a short, flat bladed oar for propelling and steering a canoe or small boat, usually held by both hands and moved more or less through a vertical arc.
  2. any of various similar implements used for mixing, stirring, or beating.
  3. any of various similar but smaller implements with a short handle for holding in one hand and a wide or rounded blade, used for a racket in table tennis, paddle tennis, etc.
  4. such an implement or a similarly shaped makeshift one, used to spank or beat someone.
  5. an implement used for beating garments while washing them in running water, as in a stream.
  6. Also called float, floatboard. a blade of a paddle wheel.
  7. paddle wheel.
  8. any of the blades by which a water wheel is turned.
  9. a flipper or limb of a penguin, turtle, whale, etc.
  10. an act of paddling.
  11. Also pattle. British Dialect. a small spade with a long handle, used to dig up thistles.
  12. (in a gate of a lock or sluice) a panel that slides to permit the passage of water.
verb (used without object), pad·dled, pad·dling.
  1. to propel or travel in a canoe or the like by using a paddle.
  2. to row lightly or gently with oars.
  3. to move by means of paddle wheels, as a steamer.
verb (used with object), pad·dled, pad·dling.
  1. to propel with a paddle: to paddle a canoe.
  2. to spank or beat with or as with a paddle.
  3. to stir, mix, or beat with or as with a paddle
  4. to convey by paddling, as a canoe.
  5. to hit (a table-tennis ball or the like) with a paddle.
  1. 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.
  1. to move the feet or hands playfully in shallow water; dabble.
  2. to toy with the fingers.
  3. 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. 2018

Examples from the Web for paddler

Historical Examples of paddler

  • When Ethan called this out the paddler waved at them, and laughed.

  • Then he realized that Conan had called to the paddler in his own tongue.

    Beyond the Black River

    Robert E. Howard

  • The paddler on the Yukon, however, cannot become too absorbed in the beauties by the way.

    Heroes of To-Day

    Mary R. Parkman

  • It would have taken rapid motions, but the paddler had proved his expertness in that.

    Blazing Arrow

    Edward S. Ellis

  • The paddler said that he had had great difficulty in eluding the white men and their agents.


    Herbert Strang

British Dictionary definitions for paddler


  1. a short light oar with a flat blade at one or both ends, used without a rowlock to propel a canoe or small boat
  2. Also called: float a blade of a water wheel or paddle wheel
  3. a period of paddlingto go for a paddle upstream
    1. a paddle wheel used to propel a boat
    2. (as modifier)a paddle steamer
  4. the sliding panel in a lock or sluicegate that regulates the level or flow of water
  5. any of various instruments shaped like a paddle and used for beating, mixing, etc
  6. a table-tennis bat
  7. the flattened limb of a seal, turtle, or similar aquatic animal, specialized for swimming
  1. to propel (a canoe, small boat, etc) with a paddle
  2. paddle one's own canoe
    1. to be self-sufficient
    2. to mind one's own business
  3. (tr) to convey by paddlingwe paddled him to the shore
  4. (tr) to stir or mix with or as if with a paddle
  5. to row (a boat) steadily, esp (of a racing crew) to row firmly but not at full pressure
  6. (intr) (of steamships) to be propelled by paddle wheels
  7. (intr) to swim with short rapid strokes, like a dog
  8. (tr) US and Canadian informal to spank
Derived Formspaddler, noun

Word Origin for paddle

C15: of unknown origin


verb (mainly intr)
  1. to walk or play barefoot in shallow water, mud, etc
  2. to dabble the fingers, hands, or feet in water
  3. to walk unsteadily, like a baby
  4. (tr) archaic to fondle with the fingers
  1. 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 paddler



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 paddler


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.