Share this entry

Share this page

tinker

Syllabification: tin·ker
Pronunciation: /ˈtiNGkər
 
/

Definition of tinker in English:

noun

1(Especially in former times) a person who travels from place to place mending metal utensils as a way of making a living.
Example sentences
  • The tinkers live by mending pots and pans, telling fortunes and selling horses and ponies at the various fairs throughout the country.
  • For the first time in his life, Yllek felt a sense of awe and wonder regarding his native city, and began to understand the underlying truth behind the stories borne by travelling tinkers and bards through the outlying lands.
  • The travelling folk, or tinkers, were often treated as second-class citizens, with heartbreaking consequences.
1.1A person who makes minor mechanical repairs, especially on a variety of appliances and apparatuses, usually for a living.
Example sentences
  • The more confident tinker may find sport in discharging large capacitors with a well insulated screwdriver (always use an old or borrowed one as this can result in quite nasty pitting of the tip).
1.2British , chiefly derogatory A Gypsy or other person living in an itinerant community.
Example sentences
  • In Scotland and Ireland gypsies were often called tinkers because of their similar wandering life-style.
  • The gypsies or tinkers as they were better known walked around the fair the whole day trying to sell ponnies, strainers and tin cans to reluctant buyers.
  • Quite near us, in Wigton, just beyond the cemetery, was a place called Black Tippoe and that was where gypsies and tinkers used to come and winter there.
2An act of attempting to repair something.
Example sentences
  • I had a brief tinker with my blog template earlier, really to just try and figure out which lines relate to which part of the screen.

verb

[no object] Back to top  
1Attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect: he spent hours tinkering with the car
More example sentences
  • Solutions do not lie in tinkering with the system, fiddling while Earth burns.
  • We shouldn't be tinkering with the checks and balances our founding fathers put in this constitution.
  • Luckily, I was tinkering with a design for a different site and I've decided to steal that for my re-design.
Synonyms
fiddle with, adjust, fix, try to mend, play about with, fool with, futz with;
tamper with, interfere with, mess about with, meddle with
1.1 [with object] archaic Attempt to mend (something) by tinkering.

Origin

Middle English (first recorded in Anglo-Latin as a surname): of unknown origin.

More
  • We do not know where the word tinker came from, but in the past tinkers played an important role travelling round mending metal utensils. They had, however, a reputation for bad language giving us the expression not give a tinker's curse, sometimes shortened to not give a tinker's. The verb meaning ‘to attempt to repair or improve something in a casual way’ was suggested by the improvized way that tinkers worked, and is found from the mid 17th century.

Phrases

not give a tinker's damn

1
informal Not care at all.
Example sentences
  • If American jets take out Iranian enrichment facilities, I don't give a tinker's damn if the man who gave the go-order was a D or an R.
  • These people don't give a tinker's damn about anyone in uniform.
  • I don't give a tinker's damn whether we withdraw unilaterally or multilaterally.

Derivatives

tinkerer

1
noun
Example sentences
  • But critics argue the flag is the latest attempt to wrest control from consumers, stifle innovation, create inconvenience, turn tinkerers into criminals and raise prices - all for a technology that won't stop piracy anyway.
  • Only rich tinkerers could afford an automobile before Henry Ford developed an assembly line to make cars cheap and reliable enough for everyone.
  • More than mere tinkerers, record-breakers push the world of possibility beyond the borders of perceived reality.

Words that rhyme with tinker

blinker, clinker, drinker, finca, freethinker, Glinka, Inca, inker, jinker, shrinker, sinker, Soyinka, stinker, stotinka, thinker, Treblinka, winker

Definition of tinker in:

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day cumbersome
Pronunciation: ˈkəmbərsəm
adjective
large or heavy and therefore difficult to carry…