A pingle is the little tab of a jigsaw puzzle piece or some other interlocking tab of a similar nature. Or so it was in common use in my family throughout my childhood in the 1990s and early 2000s (Pacific Northwest, USA). In fact, I can't recall ever using the word pingle and having someone (family or friend) need my clarification as to what I was referring. However, the dictionaries do not corroborate this definition. Webster's gives a couple definitions, and Oxford a few more, but none of them is remotely close to the above use that I thought everyone knew. Has anyone else heard the word pingle in a context outside those given by the dictionaries?

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    A presidential pingle or a regular pingle? Seriously, I've never heard the word before, in any context, with any meaning. Aug 13, 2017 at 19:35
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    Sounds more like something out of the Kama Sutra. Which, incidentally, reminds me that, like plumbers, we refer to such things as male and female.
    – David
    Aug 13, 2017 at 19:41
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    possible dup - english.stackexchange.com/questions/47667/…
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 13, 2017 at 19:46
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    @PhilSweet: That's related, but it's not a duplicate--this question asks "Has anyone else heard the word pingle in a context outside those given by the dictionaries". It doesn't ask for an alternative expression with the same meaning.
    – herisson
    Aug 14, 2017 at 4:18
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    No. But I haven't got a better name for it. Perhaps we should start using pingle in this sense.
    – rjpond
    Sep 12, 2017 at 22:23

3 Answers 3


The OED has several definitions of pingle, one of which one is similar to the definition given by @R.Dye in his answer, since deleted.

Sc. To exert oneself, work hard or laboriously; to struggle, esp. against adversity; to toil for a living. Chiefly Sc. a. intr. To strive, contend, vie; to quarrel. Also trans. with infinitive.

b. trans. To compete fiercely with; to vie with, rival. Obs.

Sc. To be hard-pressed; to be troubled, worried, or oppressed.

  1. intr. Chiefly Sc. To work in a trifling or ineffectual way; to meddle or have to do with in a petty way; to waste time, dally. a. intr. Now Eng. regional (chiefly north.). To pick at or play with one's food; to eat with little appetite, nibble

    b. trans. Eng. regional (south.). To pick at or toy with (one's food). Now rare.

Also pingle-pan:

A small metal pan or shallow cooking pot, usually having a long handle; a saucepan

Also, OED

A small enclosed piece of land; a paddock, a close

I offer this simply because pingle is a lovely word, and we should have the definitions on the record. I agree with @jlovegren that your meaning of the word was probably coined by your family.

Note: I need to clean this up, but have a plane to catch and I can't until early next week**. I will also look for definitions in a dictionary without a pay wall.


Could 'pingle' have been bastardized from 'pintle'? 'Pintle' and 'gudgeon' are the terms for the male and female parts of a hinge used for attaching a rudder to a boat or a shutter to a window frame. The analogy with the tab and slot on a jigsaw puzzle piece is obvious.

  • That's a really interesting idea. There are certainly people in my ancestry who would have known those terms. Dec 28, 2017 at 15:39

Probably the word was coined in your family or some other particularized context. If you are working on a jigsaw puzzle together with people it would be easy to coin vocabulary on the spot to talk about features of the jigsaw puzzle, because there is near-complete information. They can read your mind and then know what the word means, even the first time you ever use it.

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