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From Middle English nymyl, nemel, nemyll, nymell (agile, quick, ready, able, capable), merger of Old English nǣmel (receptive, quick to grasp) and Old English numol (able to take, capable of holding), both from niman (to take) + -el, -ol (associative suffix), corresponding to nim +‎ -le. Compare German nehmen, Gothic 𐌽𐌹𐌼𐌰𐌽 (niman), Old Norse nema (to take). More at nim.


  • IPA(key): /ˈnɪmbl̩/
  • Rhymes: -ɪmbəl
  • Audio (UK):(file)



nimble (comparative nimbler, superlative nimblest)

  1. Adept at taking or grasping.
    nimble fingers
  2. Quick and light in movement or action.
    He was too nimble for the assailant and easily escaped his grasp.
    • 1988, The Economist, volume 306, numbers 7532-7539, page 13:
      Attempts to introduce versions of "market communism" — in China, Hungary or Yugoslavia — have shown how hard it is to make mainly state-owned economies as nimble as mainly private ones.
  3. Quickwitted and alert.
    She has a nimble mind and can improvise in any situation.
    • 2020 May 20, “Merriman praised over handling of TSC's 'virtual' transition”, in Rail, page 12:
      "It requires you to be flexible and nimble in your thinking and Huw has already demonstrated that," said Greenwood, [...]


  • (antonym(s) of quick and light in movement or action): sluggish

Derived terms






nimble (third-person singular simple present nimbles, present participle nimbling, simple past and past participle nimbled)

  1. (intransitive) To move nimbly.
    • 2012, Caspar Henderson, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, page 72:
      Their teeth are regularly and assiduously cleaned by shrimp that nimble in and out of the moray's mouth like ballet dancers in the jaws of a mechanical stage dragon.