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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.
    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 termsEdit



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.
      “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. To perform gymnastics such as somersaults, rolls, and handsprings.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Rowe to this entry?)
  3. To roll over and over.
  4. (informal) To have sexual intercourse.
  5. (transitive) To smooth and polish a rough surface on relatively small parts.
  6. To muss, to make disorderly; to tousle or rumple.
    to tumble a bed

Derived termsEdit