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From Middle English garbelen, from Anglo-Norman garbeler (to sift), from Medieval Latin garbellare (or a similar Italian word), from Arabic غَرْبَلَ (ḡarbala, to sift).


  • IPA(key): /ˈɡɑː(ɹ)bəl/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɑː(ɹ)bəl


garble (third-person singular simple present garbles, present participle garbling, simple past and past participle garbled)

  1. To pick out such parts (of a text) as may serve a purpose not intended by the original author; to mutilate; to pervert.
    to garble a quotation
    to garble an account
    • 1722, Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders, The Author's Preface:
      In a word, as the whole relation is carefully garbled of all the levity and looseness that was in it, so it all applied, and with the utmost care, to virtuous and religious uses. None can, without being guilty of manifest injustice, cast any reproach upon it, or upon our design in publishing it.
  2. To make false by mutilation or addition. [from 17th c.]
    The editor garbled the story.
  3. (obsolete) To sift or bolt, to separate the fine or valuable parts of from the coarse and useless parts, or from dross or dirt. [14th–19th c.]
    to garble spices

Derived terms[edit]



garble (countable and uncountable, plural garbles)

  1. Confused or unintelligible speech.
    • 1976, Boating (volume 40, numbers 1-2, page 152)
      The FCC says it decided to attempt standardization of VHF receivers after getting "thousands of complaints" from disgruntled boatmen who found their sets brought in mostly a lot of garble and static.
  2. (obsolete) Refuse; rubbish.
  3. (obsolete) mutilation
    • 1808, Peter Pindar, letter to Joseph Nollekens:
      Did not the lady smile upon the garble
  4. (obsolete) Impurities separated from spices, drugs, etc.; garblings.

Further reading[edit]