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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English drabelan


drabble (third-person singular simple present drabbles, present participle drabbling, simple past and past participle drabbled)

  1. (transitive) To wet or dirty, especially by dragging through mud.
    • 1599, [Thomas] Nashe, Nashes Lenten Stuffe, [], London: [] [Thomas Judson and Valentine Simmes] for N[icholas] L[ing] and C[uthbert] B[urby] [], OCLC 228714942, pages 5–6:
      That which eſpecialleſt nouriſht the moſt prime pleaſure in me, was after a ſtorme when they were driuen inſwarmes, and lay close peſtred together as thicke as they could packe; the next day following, if it were faire, they would cloud the whole skie with canuas, by ſpreading their drabled ſailes in the full clue abroad a drying, and make a brauer ſhew with them, then ſo many banners and ſtreamers diſplayed againſt the Sunne on a mountaine top.
  2. (intransitive) To fish with a long line and rod.
    to drabble for barbels

Etymology 2[edit]

From a word game in Monty Python's Big Red Book in which the first player to write a novel wins; the UK Science Fiction fandom agreed that 100 words will suffice; not, as is sometimes stated, from the surname of the author Margaret Drabble.


drabble (plural drabbles)

  1. A short fictional story, typically in fan fiction, sometimes exactly 100 words long.
Usage notes[edit]

The "100 words" limit is the original meaning, although in practice (and drabble purists have denounced this extension), it frequently extends up to around 500 words, with a variety of limits used.

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]