Perhaps from British military slang, possibly based on Scots word kludge or kludgie (“common toilet”) or from the German klug (“clever”); possibly related to Polish and Russian klucz (“a key, a hint, a main point”)
Cf. German Klōß, diminutive Klößchen "clod", Low Saxon klut, klute, Dutch kluit, perhaps related to Low German diminutive klütje "dumpling, clod", Danish Jutland dial. klyt "piece of bad workmanship, kludge", and Standard Danish kludder "mess, disorder". If so, related to klutz.
There is evidence that kluge was once a separate word with similar meaning but separate derivation, but the spelling kludge was widely popularized in the U.S. by a 1962 Datamation article, “How to Design a Kludge”.
kludge (plural kludges)
- (electronics engineering) an improvised device, usually crudely constructed. Typically used to test the validity of a principle before doing a finished design.
- (general) any construction or practice, typically inelegant, designed to solve a problem temporarily or expediently.
- (computing) an amalgamated mass of totally unrelated parts forming a distressing whole [from the Datamation article mentioned in the Usage Note below].
- to build or use a kludge
Today, the terms kluge and kludge are widely believed to be alternative spellings for the same word, although a distinction in usage can perhaps be detected: in the U.K., the connotation of kludge is almost wholly negative (as befits its alleged derivation), while U.S. usage, following the older spelling kluge and the alleged German derivation, admits some fondness for the cleverness or functionality underlying a kludge that works.
Ample jokes have been made about how these terms self-referentially apply to their own tangled history.