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Idiom: To Waffle

A look at the Georgian origins of "to waffle"

Which use of the verb “to waffle” are you most accustomed to?

“I waffled over what to make for dinner.”


“She waffled on about her new bonnet.”

The use of the “to waffle” in both instances, is Georgian in origin, but where in England you were depended on how it was used.

When the verb was first used in the 17th century, it meant to yelp like a puppy, but then the 18th century it took on the meaning of talking foolishly or blabbing about trivial topics. In 1803, we see it used in reference to vacillating between decisions, ideas, movements, etc. The latter usage was originally Scottish and northern English.

To this day, the uses are still regional, with “waffling” referring to indecision heard more in the north, but “waffling” as in babbling further south.

It’s not often heard outside of the UK. It’s rare usage in America is typically to mean equivocate.

We would certainly have heard this verb used by our Georgian era heroes and heroines, but how they used it would depend on their location or exposure to people from further north or south.

How do you use this verb?


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