verb (used without object)

verb (used with object)

to mend as a tinker.
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. 2019

Related Words for tinkering

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

Examples from the Web for tinkering

Contemporary Examples of tinkering

Historical Examples of tinkering

  • The carpenter took more than a day, tinkering at an old ship's boat.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

  • With which confession Hooker resumed his tinkering on the motorcycle.

  • "Tinkering with that old thing again, I see," coughed Rackliff.

  • Banasel was engaged in his usual pastime of tinkering with the equipment.

    The Players

    Everett B. Cole

  • He said it was out of order, and he's tinkering with it the last few days.

British Dictionary definitions for tinkering



(esp formerly) a travelling mender of pots and pans
a clumsy worker
the act of tinkering
Scot and Irish another name for Gypsy
British informal a mischievous child
any of several small mackerels that occur off the North American coast of the Atlantic


(intr foll by with) to play, fiddle, or meddle (with machinery, etc), esp while undertaking repairs
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 tinkering



"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 tinkering


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.