tinker with

Idioms & Phrases

tinker with

Try to repair, work aimlessly or unskillfully with, as in He tinkered with the engine all day but it still wouldn't start. This idiom, first recorded in 1658, alludes to working as a tinker, that is, mending metal utensils.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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