Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Kludge

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is kludge. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

A kludge is a haphazard or makeshift solution to a problem and especially to a computer or programming problem.

// Andy knocked out a hasty kludge to circumvent the glitch until a more robust solution could be developed.

KLUDGE in Context

“I briefly considered purchasing a new desk for the office. But the one that several people at The Verge recommended … usually runs around $600 or so, and I had other expenses to deal with. … So I began to see if I could come up with a kludge that would give me what amounted to a standing desk.” — Barbara Krasnoff,, 16 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

As long as the origins of kludge (also spelled kluge) are uncertain, any attempt to pin them down will itself be a bit of a kludge—that is, a makeshift solution. The writer Jackson W. Granholm, once thought to have coined the word, offered his own when he wrote in his 1962 article “How to design a kludge” that it came from the German word klug, meaning “smart” or “witty.” This connection is unlikely on both phonetic and semantic grounds, however, and in any event the word already existed. A decade earlier, in an article recounting military folklore acquired from ex-soldiers, Agnes Nolan Underwood related a shaggy-dog story about a sailor named Murgatroyd whose civilian occupation is “kluge maker.” The meaning of kluge is withheld till the end of the tale, when the object made by Murgatroyd turns out to be “the damnedest looking little thing you ever saw—wires and springs sticking out in every direction.” Murgatroyd then accidentally drops the object: “the kluge slipped out and went overboard, down into the ocean, and went ‘kkluuge’.” This suggests a possible onomatopoeic origin for kludge/kluge (we note that the kluge spelling better reflects its pronunciation; the word rhymes with huge, not fudge), but again, nothing in this life is certain but death and taxes, and these days also computer malfunctions.

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