From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



The origin of the verb is uncertain; it is either:[1]

  • onomatopoeic in origin (compare bumble (to act in an inept, clumsy or inexpert manner; to make mistakes), fumble (to grope awkwardly in trying to find something; to blunder uncertainly)); or
  • from Old Norse; compare Old Swedish bunga (to strike), and dialectal Swedish bangla (to work ineffectually).

The noun is derived from the verb.[2]



bungle (third-person singular simple present bungles, present participle bungling, simple past and past participle bungled)

  1. (transitive) To incompetently perform (a task); to ruin (something) through incompetent action; to botch up, to bumble.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:spoil
    • 1821 February 24, Lord Byron, “Extracts from a Diary of Lord Byron, 1821”, in Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: [], Frankfurt am Main: [] H. L. Brönner, published 1830, →OCLC, page 468, column 1:
      I always had an idea that it would be bungled; but was willing to hope, and am still so. Whatever I can do by money, means, or person, I will venture freely for their freedom; and have so repeated to them (some of the Chiefs here) half an hour ago.
  2. (intransitive) To act or work incompetently; to fumble.
    Synonym: blunder
    • 1647, Henry More, “[Philosophical Poems.] Notes upon Psychozoia.”, in Alexander B[alloch] Grosart, editor, The Complete Poems of Dr. Henry More (1614–1687) [] (Chertsey Worthies’ Library), [Edinburgh: [] Edinburgh University Press; Thomas and Archibald Constable, []] for private circulation, published 1878, →OCLC, stanza 41, page 139, column 2:
      Physis is nothing else but the vegetable World, the Universall comprehension of Spermaticall life dispersed throughout. [] For Physis (as I said) is not the divine Understanding it self, but is as if you should conceive, an Artificers imagination separate from the Artificer, and left alone to work by it self without animadversion. Hence Physis or Nature is sometimes puzzeld and bungells in ill disposed matter, because its power is not absolute and omnipotent.
    • 1852 March – 1853 September, Charles Dickens, “Dutiful Friendship”, in Bleak House, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1853, →OCLC, pages 474–475:
      [T]he trooper fails to fasten the brooch. His hand shakes, he is nervous, and it falls off. "Would any one believe this?" says he, catching it as it drops and looking round. "I am so out of sorts that I bungle at an easy job like this!"

Derived terms[edit]



bungle (plural bungles)

  1. A botched or incompetently handled action or situation; a blunder.
    Synonyms: botch, muddle
    • 1653, Henry More, chapter XII, in An Antidote against Atheisme, or An Appeal to the Natural Faculties of the Minde of Man, whether There Be Not a God, London: [] Roger Daniel, [], →OCLC, book I, page 102:
      VVherefore this Religious affection vvhich nature has implanted, and as ſtrongly rooted in Man as the feare of death or the love of vvomen, vvould be the moſt enormous ſlip or bungle ſhe could commit, ſo that ſhe vvould ſo ſhamefully faile in the laſt Act, in this contrivance of the nature of Man, that inſtead of a Plaudite ſhe vvould deſerve to be hiſſed off the Stage.
    • 1833, [Frederick Marryat], chapter XII, in Peter Simple. [], volume II, London: Saunders and Otley, [], published 1834, →OCLC, page 200:
      The second figure [of the dance] commenced, and I made a sad bungle; so I did of the third, and fourth, and fifth, for I never had danced a cotillon.
    • 1888, Henry Lawson, United Division (essay):
      The Soudan bungle was born partly of sentimental loyalty and partly of the aforementioned jealousy existing between the colonies, and now at a time when the colonies should club closer together our Government is doing all they can to widen the breach by trying to pass a bill enabling New South Wales to monopolise the name "Australia".



  1. ^ bungle, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; “bungle, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ bungle, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2019; “bungle, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.