Open main menu




Origin uncertain; 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 idly touch or nervously handle
    Waiting for the interview, he fumbled with his tie.
    He fumbled the key into the lock.
    • 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.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To grope awkwardly in trying to find something
    He fumbled for his keys.
    He fumbled his way to the light-switch.
    • Fielding
      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
    • Chesterfield
      My understanding flutters and my memory fumbles.
    • Wordsworth
      Alas! how he fumbles about the domains.
  5. (transitive, intransitive, sports) To drop a ball or a baton etc.
  6. To handle much; to play childishly; to turn over and over.
    • Shakespeare
      I saw him fumble with the sheets, and play with flowers.



fumble (plural fumbles)

  1. (sports) A ball etc. that has been dropped