Everyone knows that hoodwink means to deceive or to fool someone, but the meaning is not apparent from the word’s roots. The hood makes sense enough, but what about wink?
Hoodwink is a bit redundant. Both roots mean to blind. The hood is a reference to a covering of the head, and while wink today usually means to close one eye, it originally meant to close both. The verb, in a literal sense of to cover the eyes, to blindfold, dates to 1562. From An Apology of Private Mass from that year:
Will you enforce women to hoodwink themselves in the church?
The sense of to fool or deceive dates to 1610 and John Healey’s translation of Augustine’s City of God:
Let not the faithlesse therefore hood-winck them-selves in the knowledge of nature.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2017, by David Wilton