from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A traveling mender of metal household utensils.
  • noun Chiefly British A member of any of various traditionally itinerant groups of people living especially in Scotland and Ireland; a traveler.
  • noun One who enjoys experimenting with and repairing machine parts.
  • noun A clumsy repairer or worker; a meddler.
  • intransitive verb To work as a tinker.
  • intransitive verb To make unskilled or experimental efforts at repair; fiddle.
  • intransitive verb To mend as a tinker.
  • intransitive verb To manipulate unskillfully or experimentally.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A playfully abusive epithet for a child.
  • noun A mender of household utensils of tin, brass, copper, and iron; one who goes from place to place with tools and appliances for mending kettles, pans, etc.
  • noun The act of mending, especially metal-work; the doing of the work of a tinker.
  • noun A botcher; a bungler; an unskilful or clumsy worker; one who makes bungling attempts at making or mending something; also, a “jack of all trades,” not necessarily unskilful.
  • noun An awkward or unskilful effort to do something; a tinkering attempt; a botch; a bungle.
  • noun In ordnance, a small mortar fixed on a stake, and fired by a trigger and lanyard.
  • noun A small mackerel, or one about two years old; also, the chub-mackerel. See tinker mackerel, under mackerel.
  • noun The silversides, a fish. See cut under silver-sides.
  • noun A stickleback, specifically the tenspined, Gasterosteus (or Pygosteus) pungitius.
  • noun The skate.
  • noun The razor-billed auk, Alca or Utamania torda. See cut under razorbill.
  • noun A kind of seal. [Newfoundland.] A guillemot. Also tinkershire.
  • To repair or put to rights, as a piece of metal-work.
  • To repair or put into shape rudely, temporarily, or as an unskilled workman: used in allusion to the imperfect and makeshift character of ordinary work in metals: often with up, to patch up.
  • To do the work of a tinker upon metal or the like.
  • To work generally in an experimental or botchy way; occupy one's self with a thing carelessly or in a meddlesome way: as, to tinker with the tariff.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To busy one's self in mending old kettles, pans, etc.; to play the tinker; to be occupied with small mechanical works.
  • noun A mender of brass kettles, pans, and other metal ware.
  • noun One skilled in a variety of small mechanical work.
  • noun (Ordnance) A small mortar on the end of a staff.
  • noun Prov. Eng., Prov. Eng. A young mackerel about two years old.
  • noun Prov. Eng., Prov. Eng. The chub mackerel.
  • noun Prov. Eng., Prov. Eng. The silversides.
  • noun Prov. Eng. A skate.
  • noun (Zoöl.) The razor-billed auk.
  • transitive verb To mend or solder, as metal wares; hence, more generally, to mend.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun an itinerant tinsmith and mender of household utensils made of tin
  • noun dated, offensive A member of the travelling community. A gypsy.
  • noun usually with "little" A mischievous person, especially a playful, impish youngster.
  • noun Someone who repairs, or attempts repair on anything mechanical (tinkers) or invents.
  • noun The act of repair or invention.
  • verb to fiddle with something in an attempt to fix, mend or improve it, especially in an experimental or unskilled manner
  • verb to work as a tinker

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb work as a tinker or tinkerer
  • verb do random, unplanned work or activities or spend time idly
  • noun small mackerel found nearly worldwide
  • noun a person who enjoys fixing and experimenting with machines and their parts
  • verb try to fix or mend
  • noun formerly a person (traditionally a Gypsy) who traveled from place to place mending pots and kettles and other metal utensils as a way to earn a living


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English tinkere.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English tinkere


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  • Weirdnet is clearly wrong on this, mixing up the verb tinker and the noun tinkerer, one who enjoys tinkering.

    Tinker is also the non-PC term used in Ireland for a member of the travellers, or gypsies.

    December 15, 2007

  • Vot voz VeirdNET tinking ov?

    December 15, 2007

  • It can't make mistakes. It's a machine, that's not its way. Clearly, you're confusing it with its cousin, WrongNET.

    December 15, 2007

  • Right, WrongNet. I've been having a thlink about tinker, who could conceivably be one who goes to the urinal for a tinkle and then finds himself (the herselfs are seated in Better Realms, surely) afflicted by aridity. Left holding the bag, as it were. Whaddyareckon?

    December 15, 2007

  • I'm not sure about that, but one probably wouldn't want to be a tinker without a tinkerbell around. To stay alert, or something.

    December 15, 2007

  • It's never over until Tinkerbell tinks.

    December 15, 2007

  • I see nothing wrong the use of tinker as described by WordNet. tinkerer is probably closer, but I'd understand both.

    December 18, 2007

  • tinkerer is not just 'probably closer'; it's correct. Use of tinker to denote both the action and its practitioner, on the other hand, is just a recipe for confusion. Someone who bickers is a bickerer, someone who puckers is a puckerer. The rule seems pretty straightforward.

    December 18, 2007

  • I can see the rule and I also note that English has never shied at having exceptions to rules: that which deters is a deterrent and so on. Tinker sounds fine to me and most dictionaries seem to prefer it to tinkerer. I associate it more with the profession than backyard mechanics, doesn't seem quite the same thing.

    This word has a wonderful metallic sound to it.

    December 18, 2007

  • To me, tinkerer and tinker have different meanings, even when tinker is being used as a noun.

    December 18, 2007

  • Maybe a tinker just tinks.

    February 7, 2008

  • Citation on splodge (in the sense of gypsy).

    June 29, 2008

  • A nickname for the razor-billed auk.

    May 13, 2011