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Does anyone know anything about the origin, etymology and area of use of this word? Incidentally, it is not to be found in the OED. Its meaning is "to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination".


  • Hi @Malachite
    Let me try and find out from my colleagues - and who knows, this might turn out to be a good suggestion for the OED! :)

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited December 2017

    This reminds me of the story of the word quiz.
    This may not actually be a true story, but you can see how it's possible that a meaningless word could be launched into use just by exposing it widely.

    In the quiz story, it took a small army of people writing on walls. But nowadays we have the internet. Googling codiwomple gave me c53,900 hits. But when I looked at a few, they looked suspiciously similar — with exactly the definition offered by Malachite, using exactly the same wording. It took a day (allegedly) to plaster Dublin walls with a word; it takes seconds to plaster a word all over the internet. All it needs is for the word and its supposed meaning to be eye-catching and interesting for reader after reader to take it up and plaster it over the net again and again.

  • [email protected],
    I would certainly love to see the word included in the OED. It seems very useful in our age of round the world travelling, and very euphonic, too. Its meaning reminded me of another word - serendipity. Maybe coddiwomple was even coined tongue in cheek (by some wellknown author with a sense of humour?) in reminiscence of Walpole's coinage.
    I also think that the OED team is doing a great job, there is no better or more fascinating dictionary in the world and this blog certainly is an added bonus.

  • SimoneSimone admin
    edited June 2018

    Hi @Malachite

    My colleague - who is an OED editor - has just got back to me, and this is what I've got:

    "I’ve had a preliminary look for evidence for a verb coddiwomple, and the earliest conventional printed sources I can find it in are newspapers from August and September last year, although it does seem to appear somewhat earlier online, in blogs and the like. It doesn’t appear in any of our dictionaries of regional English, such as the English Dialect Dictionary or the Dictionary of American Regional English, and I can’t find it in the major dictionaries of slang either, although that may be because it’s too recent.

    I am slightly suspicious that almost all occurrences of coddiwomple give it the same definition word for word, rather than simply using the verb in a natural sentence, which suggests to me that this may be a relatively recent invention which has caught on to a certain extent online. That doesn’t make it any less of a “real word” necessarily, but for the OED’s purposes, it’s probably a little too recent for us to include at the moment, unless more evidence comes to light. We like to be sure that a word is properly established in the English language with a reasonable amount of currency before we include it in the OED.

    If you would like to submit your suggestion, giving any relevant information, we can keep this on file and keep an eye out for this word, to see if it catches on more widely over time. That would be very helpful.

    Here is the link for submitting suggestions to the OED."

    My colleague also asked me to thank you: "Could you pass on my thanks for this query? It’s an interesting one." :)

  • [email protected],
    thank you so much for your answer and the trouble your colleague has taken. I had already checked the relevant dialect and slang dictionaries and hadn't found the word. Since I am not a native speaker though, I was unsure whether the word might not be in use in some specific social group of which I had no knowledge, nor did I have any idea for how long it might have been around. I fully agree that words should only find their way into the OED once they show a certain frequency of use. However, I had no means to check this for this particular word, which a friend of mine had used to describe my way of travelling round Germany at the moment. And for this it really seemed a very useful coinage.
    Thanks also for the link for new submissions. I am tempted to use this for another verb, "to chike", and the noun "chiker", both of which I first came across in a short story by Alan Sillitoe. The meaning is something like "to watch secretly, surreptitiously, to spy on someone". And it must be Nottingham dialect, though I could not find it in any of the dialect dictionaries either and it is not in the OED. I suppose it might somehow be historically related to German "kieken" ("to look") but cannot explain the sound change in the initial sound. I have no means at the moment to provide the exact reference but will do so at the beginning of next year once I have finished my coddiwompling :-) through Germany. I suppose this does not now count as written evidence for the verb coddiwomple :-).
    Have a nice weekend!

  • SimoneSimone admin
    edited December 2017

    I'm glad you found my colleague's response useful, @Malachite!

    Yes, please send in your suggestion, and your suggestion for 'chiker' too - the editors are always happy to receive suggestions of words to include.
    I'm not sure your post can count as evidence for the word, as you say, but hey - you're making a genuine use of it! :)

    And happy coddiwompling in Germany!

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