Printable Version
Pronunciation: hUd-wingk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To fool, deceive; to pull the wool over someone's eyes, hornswoggle, boondoggle. 2. (Archaic) To blindfold.

Notes: There is little to say about this word; other than the opaqueness of its meaning (see Word History), it is a perfectly normal compound verb. A person who hoodwinks is a hoodwink himself or a hoodwinker who engages in hoodwinkery.

In Play: Hoodwink generally implies mischief more than crime, but its meaning often hovers over the line between the two: "Gertrude hoodwinked me into cleaning her house last weekend by telling me that she was scheduled for surgery today. I just saw her at the mall." Anywhere you can use pull the wool over someone's eyes, you can use today's word to shorten your sentence: "Lenny knows a dozen ways to hoodwink a bartender into giving him a free drink."

Word History: Today's word is a compound noun that seems to have strayed off its original meaning. Actually, only the meaning of wink has lost its bearings. In 1562, questions like this were posed: "Will you enforce women to hoodwink themselves in the church?" So to hoodwink originally meant to literally cover someone's eyes with a hood, the equivalent of pulling the wool over their eyes. Later the meaning of wink shifted to merely closing the eyes. In 1664 Tillotson wrote in The Wisdom of Being Religious: "Men are not blind, but they wink, and shut their eyes; they can understand, and will not." Since then the meaning of wink has shifted further while hoodwink's meaning has held its course. (I will not hoodwink you, good reader; it was Mary Jane Stoneburg who suggested today's word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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