Popple has a number of meanings. It can be used to mean the poplar tree, cornfield weeds, or to make a constant popping sound.

RiverThe meaning I particularly like is ‘to flow in a tumbling or rippling manner’ or ‘to heave or bubble’ (both of water). A connected meaning is ‘to bob up and down on the surface of rippling water’.

It can also be used as a noun for ‘a rolling or rippling of water’ or ‘a choppy body of water’.

Popple is considered imitative – it reproduces the sound of the thing it is describing.

“The sound of waters dropping, poppling, splashing, trickling.”

– C. J. Cornish, The Naturalist on the Thames. 1902

It is thought to originate from the Middle Dutch word popelen, meaning ‘to murmur’ or ‘to mumble’. The OED also gives comparisons with the West Frisian word popelje, meaning ‘to throb’ or ‘to bubble up’, and the regional German word poppeln, meaning ‘to bubble’.

The earliest usage recorded by the OED was c1400. And it isn’t just used for descriptions of the natural world.

“His brains came poppling out like water.”

– Charles Cotton, Burlesque upon burlesque. 1675


  • The Oxford English Dictionary Online

9 thoughts on “Popple

  1. You got me again. I have never heard that word before and I am an info junkie. I pride myself on “knowing”. I also love learning new things. Thank you.


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