Striggles, sniggles and squiggles

I came across the word striggle /ˈstrɪg(ə)l/ – a wavy line, while looking for something else in the OED. It’s a portmanteau of straggle and wiggle, and it caught my attention because I hadn’t encountered it before, and because it appeals to me.

Other words that look and sound like they’re related include squiggle (to work wavy or intricate embroidery, to squirm or wriggle, squirm); sniggle (to wriggle, crawl, creep stealthily; a snigger or snicker), and wriggle (to twist or turn the body about with short writhing movements; to move sinuously; to writhe, squirm, wiggle). The etymology of these is uncertain and they are perhaps of imitative origin, though apparently wriggle comes from the (Middle) Low German wriggeln, which comes from wriggen (to twist or turn).

Does the -iggle part of these words suggest anything to you in terms of size, shape, or other qualities?

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, Language.

4 Responses to Striggles, sniggles and squiggles

  1. Andrew says:

    I’ve always wondered about this. Do some English strings of phonemes have semantic value even if they’re not a complete word? What about the words drip, drop, droop, and drapes- does “dr-” connote some sort of downward quality? Or slop, slip, slick, slime, slush, and slurry? For me, “-iggle” makes me think of small things that move in a curved or wavy pattern. That’s probably more because of I’ve already been primed with rhyming words that have those meaning than because I assign the string of phonemes itself a meaning, but yeah. Chicken or the egg?

  2. TJ says:

    To me “-iggle” makes me think of something that shakes and give some sort of sound. I often tend to think that the “-iggle” suffix is derived directly from a sound.

  3. Yenlit says:

    It’s the /-le/ that is the suffix which is the frequentative verbal suffix indicating repetition from Old English /-lian/ Old Saxon /-lon/ Dutch, German /-len/ Old Norse /-la/.
    Any of these /iggle/ words makes me think of young children’s telly or book characters.

  4. Wondering why you leave out the most common meaning of “squiggle”, which we might roughly describe as a line that contains a certain degree of twistedness but is not tortuous enough to be a scribble. A quick dictionary check backs me up on this. Definitions involving embroidery or body movement are not common.

    To Australians, the word “squiggle” has additional connotations:

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