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From Middle English tumblen (to fall over and over again, tumble), frequentative of Middle English tumben (to fall, leap, dance), from Old English tumbian, from Proto-Germanic *tūmōną (to turn, rotate). Cognate with Middle Dutch tumelen (whence Dutch tuimelen); Middle Low German tumelen, tummelen; and German taumeln.


  • enPR: tŭmʹbəl, IPA(key): /ˈtʌmbl̩/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌmbəl
  • Hyphenation: tum‧ble


tumble (plural tumbles)

  1. A fall, especially end over end.
    I took a tumble down the stairs and broke my tooth.
  2. A disorderly heap.
    • 2008, David Joutras, A Ghost in the World (page 55)
      When at last we stopped in a tumble of bodies on the grass, laughing, and in Dad's case, out of breath, we were like little kids (I mean 5 or 6! After all I am 12!) at the end of a playground session.
  3. (informal) An act of sexual intercourse.
    • 1940, John Betjeman, Group Life: Letchworth
      Wouldn't it be jolly now, / To take our Aertex panters off / And have a jolly tumble in / The jolly, jolly sun?
    • 1979, Martine, Sexual Astrology, page 219:
      When you've just had a tumble between the sheets and are feeling rumpled and lazy, she may want to get up so she can make the bed.

Derived terms[edit]



tumble (third-person singular simple present tumbles, present participle tumbling, simple past and past participle tumbled)

  1. (intransitive) To fall end over end; to roll over and over.
    • 1692–1717, Robert South, Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, volume (please specify |volume=I to VI), 6th edition, London: [] J[ames] Bettenham, for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1727, OCLC 21766567:
      He who tumbles from a tower surely has a greater blow than he who slides from a molehill.
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326:
      “Heavens!” exclaimed Nina, “the blue-stocking and the fogy!—and yours are pale blue, Eileen!—you’re about as self-conscious as Drina—slumping there with your hair tumbling à la Mérode! Oh, it's very picturesque, of course, but a straight spine and good grooming is better. []
    • 1908, Grahame, Kenneth, The Wind in the Willows:
      The two animals tumbled over each other in their eagerness to get inside, and heard the door shut behind them with great joy and relief.
  2. (intransitive) To perform gymnastics such as somersaults, rolls, and handsprings.
  3. (intransitive) To drop rapidly.
    Share prices tumbled after the revelation about the company's impending failure.
  4. (transitive) To smoothe and polish, e.g., gemstones or pebbles, by means of a rotating tumbler.
  5. (intransitive, informal) To have sexual intercourse.
  6. (intransitive) To move or rush in a headlong or uncontrolled way.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, chapter XXVII, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, OCLC 57395299, page 129:
      Whether he ever thought of it at all, might be a question ; but, if he ever did chance to cast his mind that way after a comfortable dinner, no doubt, like a good sailor, he took it to be a sort of call of the watch to tumble aloft, and bestir themselves there, about something which he would find out when he obeyed the order, and not sooner.
  7. To muss, to make disorderly; to tousle or rumple.
    to tumble a bed
  8. (cryptocurrencies) To obscure the audit trail of funds by means of a tumbler.
    • 2019, Merchant, Brian, “Click Here to Kill: The dark world of online murder markets”, in Harper’s Magazine[1], volume 2020, number January:
      Now it’s easy to purchase bitcoins on any number of mainstream markets and “tumble” them so that their point of purchase is obscured.
  9. (obsolete, UK, slang) To comprehend; often in tumble to.
    • 1851, Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor
      Speaking of this language, a costermonger said to me: "The Irish can't tumble to it anyhow; the Jews can tumble better, but we're their masters. Some of the young salesmen at Billingsgate understand us, — but only at Billingsgate; []


Derived terms[edit]