See more synonyms for tinker on Thesaurus.com
  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.
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.
verb (used with object)
  1. to mend as a tinker.
  2. to repair in an unskillful, clumsy, or makeshift way.

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

Related Words for tinkered

mess, dabble, repair, play, toy, monkey, doodle, putter, niggle, puddle, fix

Examples from the Web for tinkered

Contemporary Examples of tinkered

Historical Examples of tinkered

  • When anything about the building caved in, as it frequently did, he tinkered it himself.

    Freaks of Fortune

    Oliver Optic

  • For a while it wouldn't work for a cent, although they tinkered with it night and day.

    Walter and the Wireless

    Sara Ware Bassett

  • Alas for the gods or the mediators who require to be tinkered!

    Our Little Lady

    Emily Sarah Holt

  • Well, we tinkered, and the Portuguese dock-yard people tinkered.

    If, Yes and Perhaps

    Edward Everett Hale

  • Then he climbed back into the fuselage and tinkered at the engine.

    Tam O' The Scoots

    Edgar Wallace

British Dictionary definitions for tinkered


  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
  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
Derived Formstinkerer, noun

Word Origin for tinker

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 tinkered



"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tinkered


In addition to the idiom beginning with tinker

  • tinker with

also see:

  • not worth a damn (tinker's damn)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.