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Forms: (OE vbl. n. kitelung, ME vbl. n. kitlynge), ME kytill, kytylle, (? kitell, ketil), 15 kyttyl(l, -il, kittil(l, kitill, (3rd sing. kytlis, vbl. n. kitling), 16– kittle.(Show Less)
Etymology: Middle English kytylle, kityll; compare late Old English noun kitelung, Middle English kitlynge; cognate with Old Saxon kitilôn (Middle Dutch kitelen, kittelen, ketelen, Dutch kittelen, kietelen), Old High German chizzilôn, chuzzilôn (Middle High German kitzeln, kütz-, modern German kitzeln), Old Norse kitla (Swedish kittla); not known outside Germanic, and generally supposed to be of onomatopoeic origin, with a double form in kit- and kut-.
The history of the word in English is not clear. The verb itself is not found before the date of the Catholicon, 1483; and it is now used dialectally from Scotland to East Anglia. Hence it might, as well as the noun kitlynge in Hampole, c1340, be of Norse origin. But the noun kitelung occurring once in a late Old English gloss (c1000), naturally suggests an Old English noun *kitelian, which could only stand for *cytelian, parallel to the Old High German form in chu-. An original Old English *citelian = Old Saxon citilôn, would not have been written with k, and would have given Middle English *chittle. It thus remains uncertain whether kittle, the date and locality of which are consistent with Norse derivation, is of Scandinavian or Old English origin.
Now dial. and chiefly Sc.
a. trans. To tickle (in physical sense).
c1000 [implied in: c1000 in T. Wright & R. P. Wülcker Anglo-Saxon & Old Eng. Vocab. (1884) I. 278/6 Titillatio, kite~lung. (at kittling n.)].
1483 Cath. Angl. 204/2 To kytylle, titillare.
1483 Caxton tr. J. de Voragine Golden Legende 265/2 She..felt hym and ketild hym.
c1575 Balfour's Practicks (1754) 509 Gif..the band quhairwith thay ar bund tuich or kittle his sair bak.
a1617 Sir J. Melville Mem. Own Life (1827) 120 Sche culd not refrain from putting hir hand in his nek to kittle him.
1683 W. Kennett tr. Erasmus Witt against Wisdom 22 How a man must hug, and dandle, and kittle..his bed-fellow.
1822 J. Galt Steam-boat x. 250 Kittling him in the ribs with his fore-finger.
a1825 R. Forby Vocab. E. Anglia (1830) , Kittle, to tickle.
1855 F. K. Robinson Gloss. Yorks. Words, To kittle, to tickle.
b. transf. Used of actions humorously or ironically likened to tickling, as the friction of the strings of a fiddle with a bow, a stab with a weapon, etc."