Printable Version
Pronunciation: fêd-êl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To confuse, disorient, stupefy, befuddle. 2. [Intransitive] To tipple, to booze, to become intoxicated. 3. [Transitive] To make drunk, to intoxicate.

Notes: Another word for boozing—just what we need. Well, though this one has come to mean something different (Meaning 1 above), a fuddler is a boozer and fuddling still refers to boozing. For the sense of "disorientation" we have skip over to befuddlement. Speaking of which: the question often arises as to how fuddle came to have the same meaning as befuddle. The Word History will explain that. It is not because the person who came up with befuddle was a little fuddled at the time.

In Play: Today fuddle, like befuddle, is more often used to refer to mental disorientation: "Les Canoodle was so fuddled by the sheer beauty of Natalie that he poured her wine in her water glass and her water in her wine glass." Still, we are free to use it to refer to intoxication: "All the scotch had so fuddled Mack O'Ronie that he mounted his cycle backwards, then returned to the party because he couldn't find the handlebars."

Word History: Originally, fuddle and befuddle had different meanings. The prefix be- originally meant either "to provide with", as bespectacle "to provide with spectacles" and bespeckle "to provide with speckles", or "to cause or make", as besmear, bespatter, bestir, and befriend "to make someone a friend". Fuddle meant to become fuddled and befuddle meant to make someone fuddled. However, we stopped using this prefix so the differences between the prefixed and unprefixed forms began disappearing. Fuddle was probably a diminutive of fudder "a tun (cask) of wine", for -le once indicated smaller versions of the noun, as a sparkle was a small spark and a speckle was once a small speck. (We thank Susanne Houfek for suggesting today's Good Word rather than remain befuddled as to why befuddle means the same thing as fuddle.)

Dr. Goodword,

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