Adventures in Etymology – Befuddle

In this Adventure in Etymology we are getting perplexed and confused by the origins of the word befuddle.

Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithicus rosalia)

Befuddle [bɪˈfʌdl] means:

  • to perplex or confuse (sb)
  • to stupefy (sb), especially with alcohol

It comes from be- (a prefix) and fuddle (to confuse, intoxicate, get drunk; intoxication, a muddle or confusion) [source], possibly from the Low German fud(d)eln (to work negligently) [source].

Related words include befuddlement (a state of being befuddled), fuddlesome (confusing), fuddler (drunkard) and fuddling (intoxication).

Incidentally, in some English dialects, such as in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Bedfordshire, a fuddle is a party or picnic where attendees bring food and wine.

Such an event might also be called a potluck, potluck dinner, pitch-in, shared lunch, faith supper, covered-dish supper, Jacob’s Join, bring a plate or fellowship meal [source]. Other names are available. What would you call it?

According to the description of the photo, which is of a Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithicus rosalia) by the way, “Tamarins are easy to confuse. I just asked him what the square root of 5 was, and he got all befuddled.” So it’s a good way to illustrate befuddlement, and I like to use photos of cute animals on my posts, because why the hell not?

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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