Printable Version
Pronunciation: bahg-gêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To startle or be startled, to shy away from fearfully. 2. To bungle, botch, or fumble. 3. To overwhelm with amazement.

Notes: Today's word has almost penned itself up in one word, mind-boggling. Historically, however, this verb has mostly been used intransitively with the preposition at or about, as in, "He would never boggle at a bungee jump." An interesting noun from the second meaning of today's word is boggledy-botch "a complete mess, foul up", as in, "You've made a complete boggledy-botch of the party with your lampshades and karaoke!"

In Play: The intransitive use is still available: "The horse boggled at a barbed wire fence and threw its rider to the ground." The sense of botching retains its usefulness, too, "He boggled (sense 2) through the match, then clinched his position in infamy with a shot into his own goal, which boggled (sense 3) everyone in the stadium." So, don't let this verb boggle your imagination—deploy it generously in the glory of all its meanings.

Word History: Of the various names (bogle, boggard, bogy) attached to English-speaking goblins, bogle has been around the longest, since around 1500. Although these words seem obviously related, their relationship is unclear. They may derive from bogge or bog "hobgoblin, ghost" which, in turn, are probably variants of bugge or bug, seen in the current bugaboo and bugbear. Bug in this sense may be borrowed from Welsh bwg (= bug) "ghost, hobgoblin." The forms bogle and boggle could be ancient diminutives of these words, originally meaning "small goblin", or they, too, might come directly from Welsh bwgwl (= bugul) "terror, terrifying". Who knows? (Dr. Richard Everson didn't boggle today's word but promptly reported it to us for proper disposal. We thank him for a good choice.)

Dr. Goodword,

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