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From Middle English babelen, from Old English *bæblian, also wæflian (to talk foolishly), from Proto-West Germanic *bablōn, *wablōn, variants of *babalōn, from Proto-Germanic *babalōną (to chatter), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰa-bʰa-, perhaps a reduplication of Proto-Indo-European *bʰeh₂- (to say), or a variant of Proto-Indo-European *baba- (to talk vaguely, mumble), or a merger of the two, possibly ultimately onomatopoeic/mimicry of infantile sounds (compare babe, baby).

Cognate with Saterland Frisian babbelje (to babble), West Frisian babbelje (to babble), Dutch babbelen (to babble, chat), German Low German babbeln (to babble), German babbeln (to babble), Danish bable, bavle (to babble), Swedish babbla (to babble), Icelandic babla (to babble). Unrelated to Babel.


  • IPA(key): /ˈbæb.l̩/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æbəl


babble (third-person singular simple present babbles, present participle babbling, simple past and past participle babbled)

  1. (intransitive) To utter words indistinctly or unintelligibly; to utter inarticulate sounds
    The men were babbling, so we couldn't make sense of anything.
  2. (intransitive) To talk incoherently; to utter meaningless words.
  3. (intransitive) To talk too much; to chatter; to prattle.
    • 2022, Slipknot, The Dying Song (Time To Sing)
      Radical rather than rhetorical, babble like an oracle
  4. (intransitive) To make a continuous murmuring noise, like shallow water running over stones.
    Hounds are said to babble, or to be babbling, when they are too noisy after having found a good scent.
  5. (transitive) To utter in an indistinct or incoherent way; to repeat words or sounds in a childish way without understanding.
    • 1712, John Arbuthnot, The History of John Bull:
      These [words] he used to babble indifferently in all companies.
  6. (transitive) To reveal; to give away (a secret).

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babble (usually uncountable, plural babbles)

  1. Idle talk; senseless prattle
    Synonyms: gabble, twaddle
  2. Inarticulate speech; constant or confused murmur.
  3. A sound like that of water gently flowing around obstructions.
    • 1832 December (indicated as 1833), Alfred Tennyson, “Mariana in the South”, in Poems, London: Edward Moxon, [], →OCLC, page 23:
      [T]he babble of the stream / Fell, and without the steady glare / Shrank the sick olive sere and small.



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  1. inflection of babbeln:
    1. first-person singular present
    2. first/third-person singular subjunctive I
    3. singular imperative