Monday, December 08, 2008


Drivel is defined as stupid or senseless talk, idiotic statements, or rank twaddle.

It seems to have come from a Scandinavian word meaning the sediment left over after brewing. This is appropriate, since the earliest use of the word meant spittle flowing from the mouth, or dribble.

Disgusting examples through the centuries appear in the Oxford English Dictionary: “drivel at the nose, or pus” [1570], “he cleared the drivel from his beard” [1586], “the drivel that comes from the mouth of a mad dog” [1697], “the child . . . wet with drivel from the mouth” [1789], and “The . . . nurse leaves you to drivel, and never wipes your nose” [1875].

A separate noun drivel, from a Middle Dutch word meaning a tool for driving, led to drivel meaning a servant doing menial work, an imbecile, a dirty person, and a driving tool.

SIDEBAR: Animated Drivel

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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