any fibrous or soft material for stuffing, padding, packing, etc., especially carded cotton in specially prepared sheets.
material used as wads for guns, cartridges, etc.
Surgery. any large dressing made of cotton or a similar absorbent material that is used to stanch the flow of blood or dress a wound.
a wad or lump.

Origin of wadding

First recorded in 1620–30; wad1 + -ing1




a small mass, lump, or ball of anything: a wad of paper; a wad of tobacco.
a small mass of cotton, wool, or other fibrous or soft material, used for stuffing, padding, packing, etc.
a roll of something, especially of bank notes.
Informal. a comparatively large stock or quantity of something, especially money: He's got a healthy wad salted away.
a plug of cloth, tow, paper, or the like, used to hold the powder or shot, or both, in place in a gun or cartridge.
British Dialect. a bundle, especially a small one, of hay, straw, etc.

verb (used with object), wad·ded, wad·ding.

to form (material) into a wad.
to roll tightly (often followed by up): He wadded up his cap and stuck it into his pocket.
to hold in place by a wad: They rammed and wadded the shot into their muskets.
to put a wad into; stuff with a wad.
to fill out with or as if with wadding; stuff; pad: to wad a quilt; to wad a speech with useless information.

verb (used without object), wad·ded, wad·ding.

to become formed into a wad: The damp tissues had wadded in his pocket.

Origin of wad

1530–40; < Medieval Latin wadda < Arabic bāṭa'in lining of a garment, batting; compare French ouate, Dutch watte, Swedish vadd
Related formswad·der, nounun·wad·ded, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wadding

Historical Examples of wadding

  • He was wadding his bunk with the hay, while the others looked on rather enviously.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • Where the edges were too sharp they were beaten in by a mallet, or altered by glueing on wadding.

    Practical Taxidermy

    Montagu Browne

  • Several times, also, she had been on fire from the wadding which came blazing on board.

    True Blue

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • She softened: "Get me some wadding out of the middle drawer," she said.

    Sons and Lovers

    David Herbert Lawrence

  • He flourished in the fourteenth century; according to Wadding, 1376.

British Dictionary definitions for wadding



  1. any fibrous or soft substance used as padding, stuffing, etc, esp sheets of carded cotton prepared for the purpose
  2. a piece of this
material for wads used in cartridges or guns




a small mass or ball of fibrous or soft material, such as cotton wool, used esp for packing or stuffing
  1. a plug of paper, cloth, leather, etc, pressed against a charge to hold it in place in a muzzle-loading cannon
  2. a disc of paper, felt, pasteboard, etc, used to hold in place the powder and shot in a shotgun cartridge
a roll or bundle of something, esp of banknotes
US and Canadian slang a large quantity, esp of money
British dialect a bundle of hay or straw
British military slang a bunchar and a wad

verb wads, wadding or wadded

to form (something) into a wad
(tr) to roll into a wad or bundle
  1. to hold (a charge) in place with a wad
  2. to insert a wad into (a gun)
(tr) to pack or stuff with wadding; pad
Derived Formswadder, noun

Word Origin for wad

C14: from Late Latin wadda; related to German Watte cotton wool




a soft dark earthy amorphous material consisting of decomposed manganese minerals: occurs in damp marshy areas

Word Origin for wad

C17: of unknown 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 wadding



1570s, from wad (n.). Related: Wadded; wadding.



early 15c., "soft material for padding or stuffing," of uncertain origin, and the different meanings may represent more than one source. Among the possible connections are Medieval Latin wadda, Dutch watten, and Middle English wadmal (late 14c.) "woolen cloth," which seems to be from Old Norse vaðmal "a woolen fabric of Scandinavia," probably from vað "cloth" + mal "measure."

The meaning "bundle of currency" is American English, 1778. To shoot (one's) wad "do all one can do" is recorded from 1914. The immediate source of the expression probably is the sense of "disk of cloth used to hold powder and shot in place in a gun." Wad in slang sense of "a load of semen" is attested from 1920s, and the expression now often is felt in this sense. As a suffix, -wad in 1980s joined -bag, -ball, -head in combinations meaning "disgusting or unpleasant person."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper