Unknown, US mid 19th century. The word-puzzle sense comes from the board game Dingbats, which is based on these puzzles.



dingbat (plural dingbats)

  1. (informal) A silly, crazy or stupid person.
    Synonym: dingus
    • 1978, John Irving, chapter 2, in World according to Garp:
      'Midge was such a dingbat', Jenny Fields wrote in her autobiography, 'that she went to Hawaii for a vacation during World War Two.'
    • 1994, “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)”, in Illmatic, performed by Nas:
      I hung around the older crews while they sling smack to dingbats
    • 2003, The Gilmore Girls, season 4, episode 7:
      The fire department is out here because some dingbat parked in the red zone.
  2. (typography) A special ornamental typographical symbol, such as a bullet, an arrow, a pointing hand etc.
    • 1982, The Elements of Editing: A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalists, Arthur Plotnik, p.8
      "The compulsive editor, when checking the specs on an article, can't help checking also for such items as initial capital and closing dingbat, if they are used routinely. These decorative items have a way of being forgotten..."
  3. (architecture) An architectural style of apartment building, where the second storey overhangs an area for parking cars.
  4. A kind of word puzzle involving pictures or typography that hint at the solution.
    Synonym: rebus
    • 2015, Georgia Holleran; Ian Gilbert, A Teacher’s Companion to Essential Motivation in the Classroom:
      This can be a dingbat, anagram, word puzzle, riddle or other quick warm-up activity and demonstrates to your students that when they come into your lessons, you get them thinking right away.
    • 2016, Stephen Scoffham, Teaching Geography Creatively, page 17:
      A dingbat is a kind of picture puzzle. Each picture represents a word, phrase or name, and the picture can often be supplemented with a couple of letters to assist in the guessing.
  5. (slang) Anything that can be thrown or swung with force against something else. [from 1838] [1]
  6. A small device or gadget, the correct term for which is forgotten or unknown.
    Synonyms: dingus, thingamabob, doohickey; see also Thesaurus:thingy

Related termsEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Random House Dictionary of American Slang

Further readingEdit