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[gahr-buh l] /ˈgɑr bəl/
verb (used with object), garbled, garbling.
to confuse unintentionally or ignorantly; jumble:
to garble instructions.
to make unfair or misleading selections from or arrangement of (fact, statements, writings, etc.); distort:
to garble a quotation.
Archaic. to take out the best of.
the act or process of garbling.
an instance of garbling; a garbled phrase, literary passage, etc.
Origin of garble
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English garbelen to remove refuse from spices < Old Italian garbellare to sift < Arabic gharbala < Late Latin crībellāre, derivative of crībellum, diminutive of Latin crībrum sieve (see -elle); probably influenced by garboil
Related forms
garbleable, adjective
garbler, noun
ungarbled, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for garbled
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Charlie lent an ear to the garbled veblenisms and gave it up.

    Erik Dorn

    Ben Hecht
  • He garbled his sentences so to speak with excessive and useless wording.

    Adventures in the Arts Marsden Hartley
  • Boccaccio has garbled the passage for the sake of his point.

  • It was garbled truth, but there was enough to make his spine feel like ice.

    Talents, Incorporated William Fitzgerald Jenkins
  • Frank, your mother must know, and if she waits she will get a garbled account.

    In Honour's Cause George Manville Fenn
  • A garbled history of the Gerhardts was obtained from Columbus.

    Jennie Gerhardt Theodore Dreiser
  • Wouldn't he find out from the major if she had garbled the sense of his dispatch?

British Dictionary definitions for garbled


jumbled or unclear because of distortion or omissions


verb (transitive)
to jumble (a story, quotation, etc), esp unintentionally
to distort the meaning of (an account, text, etc), as by making misleading omissions; corrupt
(rare) to select the best part of
  1. the act of garbling
  2. garbled matter
Derived Forms
garbler, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Old Italian garbellare to strain, sift, from Arabic gharbala, from ghirbāl sieve, from Late Latin crībellum small sieve, from crībrum sieve
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
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Word Origin and History for garbled



early 15c., "to inspect and remove refuse from (spices)," from Anglo-French garbeler "to sift" (late 14c.), from Medieval Latin and Italian garbellare, from Arabic gharbala "to sift and select spices," related to kirbal "sieve," perhaps from Late Latin cribellum, diminutive of Latin cribrum "sieve" (see crisis). Apparently a widespread word among Mediterranean traders (cf. Italian garbellare, Spanish garbillo); sense of "mix up, confuse, distort language" (by selecting some things and omitting others) first recorded 1680s. Related: Garbled; garbling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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