whee·​dle ˈ(h)wē-dᵊl How to pronounce wheedle (audio)
wheedled; wheedling
ˈ(h)wē-dᵊl-iŋ How to pronounce wheedle (audio)

transitive verb

: to influence or entice by soft words or flattery
: to gain or get by wheedling
wheedle one's way into favor

intransitive verb

: to use soft words or flattery

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Wheedle Comes Up Often in Literature

Wheedle has been a part of the English lexicon since the mid-17th century, though no one is quite sure how it wheedled its way in. (It has been suggested that the term may have come from the Old English word wǽdlian, which meant "to beg," but this is far from certain.) Be careful not to confuse wheedle with the similar-sounding weasel. While both words are applied in situations in which someone is trying to persuade another person, weasel is especially apt in cases in which the persuader is being clever or dishonest in their efforts, while wheedle always specifically involves soft words and flattery.

Choose the Right Synonym for wheedle

cajole, coax, soft-soap, blandish, wheedle mean to influence or persuade by pleasing words or actions.

cajole suggests the deliberate use of flattery to persuade in the face of reluctance or reasonable objections.

cajoled him into cheating on the final exam

coax implies gentle and persistent words or actions employed to produce a desired effect.

coaxed the cat out of the tree

soft-soap refers to using smooth and somewhat insincere talk usually for personal gain.

politicians soft-soaping eligible voters

blandish implies a more open desire to win a person over by effusive praise and affectionate actions.

legislators blandished with promises of support

wheedle suggests more strongly than cajole the use of seductive appeal or artful words in persuading.

hucksters wheedling her life's savings out of her

Examples of wheedle in a Sentence

He wheedled quite a bit of money from her. She pleaded and wheedled, but I wouldn't be swayed.
Recent Examples on the Web People schemed, finagled, wheedled, and conspired, caught up in the mad, headlong rush of the city. Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker, 27 Nov. 2023 His obsession was money—making it, hoarding it, wheedling it out of all and sundry. Jody Rosen, The New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2023 So the question now is: Can the Adams administration, which has been fairly good about tossing out ideas, get better at the boring, crummy business of outreach and wheedling that transforms rhetoric into brick and concrete and thus avoid the fate of Kathy Hochul’s housing plan? Curbed, 21 Sep. 2023 Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images Many bosses have demanded, requested, or wheedled their staff to return to the office over the past year, often to minimal effect. Caitlin Harrington, WIRED, 6 Sep. 2023 But if everything went well, there was a chance to wheedle the two warring sides into some sort of agreement that would culminate in the nation’s president, Ashraf Ghani, resigning from office, beginning an orderly transfer of power to a governing coalition that included the Taliban. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, 29 Aug. 2023 Was there a certain competitive spirit in getting really good at reading the script and wheedling money out of people? Daniel D'addario, Variety, 11 Aug. 2023 Or ought to be. Follow the money: MLB player salaries and payrolls for every major league team Economists have said for years that new stadiums don’t produce the economic benefits promised when owners are trying to wheedle money from the public. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, 16 June 2023 Liv had the misfortune to wheedle her way into a seat on a small plane headed into a remote area of Canada, which — after an astoundingly unconvincing crash that indicates just how little Netflix is spending on its non-marquee content — becomes her new home. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 27 July 2022

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

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

circa 1661, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of wheedle was circa 1661


Dictionary Entries Near wheedle

Cite this Entry

“Wheedle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wheedle. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


whee·​dle ˈhwēd-ᵊl How to pronounce wheedle (audio)
wheedled; wheedling ˈhwēd-liŋ How to pronounce wheedle (audio)
: to get (someone) to think or act a certain way by flattering or coaxing
wheedled them into agreeing
: to gain or get by coaxing or flattering
wheedled money from his friend

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