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cud·​gel ˈkə-jəl How to pronounce cudgel (audio)
: a short heavy club
The eighteenth-century audience went to the theatre armed with whistles, rattles, … and sometimes even wooden cudgels.Ronald Hayman


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cudgeled or cudgelled; cudgeling or cudgelling ˈkəj-liŋ How to pronounce cudgel (audio)

transitive verb

: to beat with or as if with a cudgel
cudgel one's brains
: to think hard (as for a solution to a problem)

Examples of cudgel in a Sentence

Noun a farmer armed with a cudgel drove us off his land
Recent Examples on the Web
Trump has a long history of using race, ethnicity and immigrant heritage as a cudgel. Bill Barrow, USA TODAY, 20 Jan. 2024 Even the spectre of outsourcing has provided corporations with a powerful cudgel: Stellantis recently threatened to move production of its Ram 1500 to Mexico, too, according to one of the U.A.W.’s lead negotiators. Dan Kaufman, The New Yorker, 28 Oct. 2023 Angry that for so long money had been a cudgel used against me. TIME, 13 Feb. 2024 Yet paradoxically—and much less remarked upon—American society also gives stay-at-home parents a raw deal, ignoring them in policy and providing little material or cultural support while using them as a political cudgel. Elliot Haspel, The Atlantic, 9 Feb. 2024 But Bungie has had a fair deal of success using copyright law as a legal cudgel against the makers of the cheats themselves. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, 8 Sep. 2023 Former defense secretary Robert Gates offered a harsh critique of President Barack Obama’s judgments that was used as a cudgel by Obama’s critics. Josh Dawsey, Washington Post, 20 Nov. 2023 And how long until this predicament — wielded as a political cudgel by some as proof of endemic lawlessness — becomes a reason for CVS to reassess its D.C. footprint? Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 16 Oct. 2023 But critics insist that Blum and others driving similar challenges have distorted the law’s intent, wielding it as a cudgel against fair opportunity for racial minorities, especially Black people. Julian Mark, Washington Post, 6 Nov. 2023
Before long, fairs had such attractions as cudgelling bouts, bearbaiting, and something called gouging. Zach Helfand, The New Yorker, 14 Aug. 2023 Yet doing away with the government’s critic-cudgelling arsenal should be a much higher priority. The Economist, 20 July 2019 In the winter of 1775-76, Dunbar didn’t stand a chance against the 40 patriots in Farmington, Conn., who cudgeled him nearly to death near his home. Caitlin Fitz, WSJ, 11 July 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cudgel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

Middle English kuggel, from Old English cycgel; perhaps akin to Middle High German kugele ball

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


1596, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cudgel was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near cudgel

Cite this Entry

“Cudgel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
cud·​gel ˈkəj-əl How to pronounce cudgel (audio)
: a short heavy club


2 of 2 verb
cudgeled or cudgelled; cudgeling or cudgelling
: to beat with or as if with a cudgel

More from Merriam-Webster on cudgel

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