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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, Middle Low German tumelen, tummelen.


  • enPR: tambəl, IPA(key): /tʌmbəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌmbəl


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.
    • 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.
    • Robert South (1634–1716)
      He who tumbles from a tower surely has a greater blow than he who slides from a molehill.
    • Robert W. Chambers, The Younger Set
      “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. []
  2. (intransitive) To perform gymnastics such as somersaults, rolls, and handsprings.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Rowe to this entry?)
  3. (intransitive) To roll over and over.
  4. (intransitive) To drop rapidly.
    Share prices tumbled after the revelation about the company's impending failure.
  5. (intransitive, informal) To have sexual intercourse.
  6. (transitive) To smooth and polish a rough surface on relatively small parts.
  7. To muss, to make disorderly; to tousle or rumple.
    to tumble a bed
  8. (colloquial) To suddenly realise, to get wind of.
  9. (cryptocurrency) To obscure the audit trail of funds by means of a tumbler.

Derived terms[edit]