English edit

Pronunciation edit

  • IPA(key): /ˈfʌmbəl/
  • (file)
    Rhymes: -ʌmbəl

Etymology 1 edit

Late Middle English, from Low German fommeln or Dutch fommelen.[1]

Or, perhaps from a Scandinavian/North Germanic source; compare Old Norse fálma, Swedish fumla, Danish fumle, German fummeln.

The ultimate origin for either could perhaps be imitative of fumbling.[2] Or, from Proto-Indo-European *pal- (to shake, swing), see also Latin palpo (I pat, touch softly), and possibly Proto-West Germanic *fōlijan (to feel).[3]

Verb edit

fumble (third-person singular simple present fumbles, present participle fumbling, simple past and past participle fumbled)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To handle nervously or awkwardly.
    Waiting for the interview, he fumbled with his tie.
    He fumbled the key into the lock.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To grope awkwardly in trying to find something
    He fumbled for his keys.
    He fumbled his way to the light-switch.
  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
  5. (transitive, intransitive, sports) To drop a ball or a baton etc. by accident.
    • 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.
  6. To handle much; to play childishly; to turn over and over.
  7. (slang, obsolete) Of a man, to sexually underperform. [16th to 18th c.]
Synonyms edit
Derived terms edit
Translations edit

Noun edit

fumble (plural fumbles)

  1. (sports, American football, Canadian football) A ball etc. that has been dropped by accident.
Translations edit

Etymology 2 edit

Blend of fool +‎ crumble.

Noun edit

fumble (plural fumbles)

  1. (British) A dessert similar to a cross between a fool and a crumble.

Further reading edit

References edit

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1884–1928, and First Supplement, 1933.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “fumble”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ Pokorny, Julius (1959), “2313”, in Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch [Indo-European Etymological Dictionary] (in German), volume 3, Bern, München: Francke Verlag, page 2313