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[buhs-uh l]
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verb (used without object), bus·tled, bus·tling.
  1. to move or act with a great show of energy (often followed by about): He bustled about cooking breakfast.
  2. to abound or teem with something; display an abundance of something; teem (often followed by with): The office bustled with people and activity.
verb (used with object), bus·tled, bus·tling.
  1. to cause to bustle; hustle.
  1. thriving or energetic activity; stir; ferment.

Origin of bustle1

1615–25; Middle English bustelen to hurry aimlessly along, perhaps akin to Old Norse busla to splash about, bustle
Related formsbus·tler, nounbus·tling·ly, adverbun·bus·tling, adjective


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4. ado, flurry, agitation, fuss.


[buhs-uh l]
  1. fullness around or below the waist of a dress, as added by a peplum, bows, ruffles, etc.
  2. a pad, cushion, or framework formerly worn under the back of a woman's skirt to expand, support, and display the full cut and drape of a dress.

Origin of bustle2

First recorded in 1780–90; origin uncertain
Related formsbus·tled, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for bustle


  1. (when intr , often foll by about) to hurry or cause to hurry with a great show of energy or activity
  1. energetic and noisy activity
Derived Formsbustler, nounbustling, adjective

Word Origin

C16: probably from obsolete buskle to make energetic preparation, from dialect busk from Old Norse būask to prepare


  1. a cushion or a metal or whalebone framework worn by women in the late 19th century at the back below the waist in order to expand the skirt

Word Origin

C18: of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for bustle


"be active," 1570s (bustling "noisy or excited activity" is from early 15c.), frequentative of Middle English bresten "to rush, break," from Old English bersten (see burst (v.)), influenced by Old Norse buask "to make oneself ready" (see busk (v.)), or from busk (v.) via a frequentative form buskle. Related: Bustled; bustling; bustler.


"padding in a skirt," 1788, of uncertain origin, perhaps from German Buschel "bunch, pad," or it might be a special use of bustle (n.1) with reference to "rustling motion."

BUSTLE. A pad stuffed with cotton, feathers, bran, &c., worn by ladies for the double purpose of giving a greater rotundity or prominence to the hips, and setting off the smallness of the waist. [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848]


"activity, stir, fuss, commotion," 1630s, from bustle (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper