Learn English – Origin of “canoodle”


There have been times in my life where I've enjoyed kissing and cuddling. I'm sure many of you can think of times you've enjoyed canoodling on the couch. Especially in these colder months.

Now I'm reminiscing in my ivory tower, I wonder what the origin of the word canoodle is. Etymonline and Oxford Online Dictionaries both say "origin unknown".

Does anyone know where the word comes from?

Best Answer

Webster's claims that canoodle comes from the German knudeln:

Ger knudeln, to cuddle < or akin to LowG knuddel, a knot, clump, dim. of dial. knude; akin to OHG knodo, OE cnotta, knot

Wiktionary claims “origin unknown”, but it offers two possible origins:

Origin Unknown; compare Swedish knulla (“to fornicate”), German knuddeln (“to cuddle”)

Its earliest use is from a British source in 1859, claiming that the word is American, per the Etymonline link provided by OP.

Most other dictionaries claim “unknown origin” as well, many of them agreeing with Etymonline regarding when it was first used, and where.

Considering the large number of resources checked (all 21 links provided by Onelook), we could assume that the origin is, in fact, unknown, as only 2 out of 21 provided alternatives.

However, the possibility of the word having German origin is relatively high—we know that many Germans lived in the United States, since six million Germans immigrated to the United States between 1820 and WWII. On the other hand, this is mere speculation. It is likely safest to say that the origin is, in fact, unknown.