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Origin unknown. Perhaps from a Scandinavian source. Compare Old Norse fálma, Swedish fumla, Danish fumle, German fummeln.


  • IPA(key): /ˈfʌmbəl/
  • (file)
    Rhymes: -ʌmbəl


fumble (third-person singular simple present fumbles, present participle fumbling, simple past and past participle fumbled)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To handle nervously or awkwardly.
    Waiting for the interview, he fumbled with his tie.
    He fumbled the key into the lock.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To grope awkwardly in trying to find something
    He fumbled for his keys.
    He fumbled his way to the light-switch.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Fielding, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      Adams now began to fumble in his pockets.
  3. (intransitive) To blunder uncertainly.
    He fumbled through his prepared speech.
  4. To grope about in perplexity; to seek awkwardly.
    to fumble for an excuse
    • (Can we date this quote?), Chesterfield, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      My understanding flutters and my memory fumbles.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Wordsworth, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      Alas! how he fumbles about the domains.
  5. (transitive, intransitive, sports) To drop a ball or a baton etc. by accident.
    • 2010 December 28, Owen Phillips, “Sunderland 0 - 2 Blackpool”, in BBC[1]:
      Henderson's best strike on goal saw goalkeeper Kingson uncomfortably fumble his measured shot around the post.
  6. To handle much; to play childishly; to turn over and over.
    • (Can we date this quote?), William Shakespeare, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      I saw him fumble with the sheets, and play with flowers.



fumble (plural fumbles)

  1. (sports, American football, Canadian football) A ball etc. that has been dropped by accident.


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