What is the etymology of "todger"? My Concise OED is rather vague:

ORIGIN 1950s: of unknown origin (also tadger)

"Tadger" is just listed as a "Variant spelling of TODGER"

Other references are no better:

But, Google Ngram Viewer has some interesting results (click images for larger views):

  1. "todger" has a huge relative spike in 1722 (Update: MετάEd points out that this is due to an OCR error and misleading "Normalization" of the graph by Google.):

    todger, lower-case, big picture

  2. Recent history is interesting and doesn't really support the 1950's origin of "todger":

    todger, lower-case, more recent

  3. If we go with proper names, it gets more interesting:

    todger, name-case, big picture

  4. More recently, name-case swamps lower-case, but is mostly flat after 1868, except for a slight blip in the 1940's (not 50's).

    todger, name-case, more recent

  5. Upper-case (TODGER, TADGER) is not found.

So, what really is the origin of "todger"? Is it possible that it has an eponymous origin?

  • 1
    When I click throught that 1722 spike it seems "todger" is actually an OCR mistake: the word was "Lodger". This is also true of the 1891 spike. So I am not inclined to doubt OED on the basis of this search.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 4:56
  • @MετάEd, good to know. I'd forgotten about the "detail" links at the bottom. Interesting that 1 hit (maybe 2, Google isn't clear), in 1 book, gives such a large spike. Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 5:03
  • 1
    One hit is a larger percentage at a time when fewer total books were printed. This is one of the dangers of reading a normalized graph.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 5:08
  • 1
    +1 I didn't finish reading the question, yet. Plus 1 for the research alone. :) All that needs to be said now is that too much dependence on nGrams is hazardous. I always cautioned against that. They can only be used to seed a research, help, or support an otherwise stronger research methodology.
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 6:15
  • 1
    I would have guessed todger was in part a play on roger/rodger both for nicknames and other uses
    – Henry
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 8:44

1 Answer 1


Todger, from northern English tadger

The OED says todger is British slang, a variant of tadger, and their first citation is 1986:

1986 Comic Relief Christmas Bk. 135/2 Shakespeare uses Comic Relief..to relieve the audience from tragedy with cunning allusions to the enormous todgers that were the joy of his private life.

For tadger, they say it's British slang originally from northern England. The etymological origin is unknown but they point out their first quote and a later quote:

1949 E. Partridge Dict. Slang (ed. 3) 1192/2 Tadger, penis: North Country, esp. Yorkshire... Perh. ex tadpole.

1990 T. Thorne Bloomsbury Dict. Contemp. Slang (1991) 506/1 Tadger,..a vulgarism of unknown origin (prob. from a lost dialect verb), used for many years in the North of England and revived by students, alternative comedians, etc. in the 1980s. Todger is an alternative modern version.

Tadge, to beat to a pulp

However, the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2008) says:

todger noun the penis. From the obsolete verb ‘todge’ (to smash to a pulp), the penis seen as a smashing tool UK, 2001

tadger noun the penis. Originally dialect; survives in rhyming slang FOX AND BADGER UK, 1961

The obsolete verb todge is found in Slang and Colloquial English by John S. Farmer and W. E. Henley (1921, New York):

Todge. Stodge : as verb, to smash, to pulp.

And likewise in the Vocabulum; or The Rogue's Lexicon by George W. Matsell (1859, New York):

TODGE. To smash. "Todge the bloke and pad," smoke the man and run.

It's defined as a noun in Francis Grose's 1785 A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue:

Todge, beat all to a todge, said of any thing beat to mash

Todger, Yorkshire dialect for a child?

Todger may also have been Yorkshire dialect for a child, judging by the title of a poem by Gwen Wade (1904-1996), a "distinguished Yorkshire Dialect Society member". Transactions of the Yorkshire Dialect Society - Volumes 15-17, 1984:

Modern Yorkshire dialect poets such as Bill Cowley in his "April Bairn" or Gwen Wade in her "T'Little Todger" come closer to black American dialect writers' treatment of children. They write almost exclusively about the delight children give us, or they write "teasing" poems for the children themselves (to scare them into obedience?).

Here's an extract:

By gow, but tha sewerly is cappin
Thro thi heead dahn to t' soles o' thi feet!
Ah could credit at t'Dobs caught us nappin
An slipped us a fresh un bi neet;
We'd waited on summat o' mettle
Bein born o' th o' thi mother an me,
But, peeakin up theer on t'langsettle,
Why, sitha, tha's thee!

Other snippets

A snippet of Mixer and Server (Volume 35, Hotel and Restaurant Employees' International Alliance and Bartenders' International League of America, 1926) uses "little tadger" to refer to a boy.

Seeing the little tadger trying to reach the bell and thinking he was a good scout and doing his daily good turn, he walked up to the porch, smiled at the youngster and said, "What can I do for you, young man?"

Perhaps less relevant, but a snippet of The semantic development of words for "walk, run" in the Germanic languages by Roscoe Myrl Ihrig (University of Chicago press, 1916) offers todgey meaning "short and fat":

29.32. NE. dial. todge go at a slow, ambling pace; shamble, sb. anything of thick 'stodgy' consistency, as thick soup, todgey short and fat.

  • I wonder why my Concise OED gives a different date. Are you using the online OED? Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 8:08
  • Yes, and both are new entries (OED Third Edition, March 2004). There's also a 1974 Monty Python quotation: "Cut to Arctic wastes—ice and snow and bitter blasting winds. Carpenter— his little tadger tiny as a tapir's tits—struggles on."
    – Hugo
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 8:25
  • 1
    Okay, so it looks like "todger" likely came from "tadger" (good for my C. Dickens conjecture). Makes sense that Monty Python might be responsible for its modern resurgence/popularity. Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 8:50
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    The nickname Todger for Thomas/Todd is earlier, Wiktionary has 1905 and 1917 quotations. But perhaps there's some connection between Tadger/Todger, John Thomas and Roger.
    – Hugo
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 9:23
  • Great ETA. The "Smash" and "pulp" stuff, especially. I'd upvote twice, if the site let me! Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 22:53

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