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[muhm-buh l] /ˈmʌm bəl/
verb (used without object), mumbled, mumbling.
to speak in a low indistinct manner, almost to an unintelligible extent; mutter.
to chew ineffectively, as from loss of teeth:
to mumble on a crust.
verb (used with object), mumbled, mumbling.
to say or utter indistinctly, as with partly closed lips:
He mumbled something about expenses.
to chew, or try to eat, with difficulty, as from loss of teeth.
a low, indistinct utterance or sound.
Origin of mumble
1275-1325; Middle English momelen, equivalent to mom(me) mum1 + -elen -le; compare Dutch mommelen, German mummeln
Related forms
mumbler, noun
mumblingly, adverb
half-mumbled, adjective
unmumbled, adjective
unmumbling, adjective
1, 3. See murmur.
1. articulate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for mumble
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When I stepped back from the teller's window, Boris lunged against me and started to mumble something.

    El Diablo Brayton Norton
  • A mumble filled the room, followed by moments of animated discussion.

    The Loyalist James Francis Barrett
  • My blank face showed him his mistake, and he dropped my hand and began to mumble out apologies.

    A College Girl Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey
  • I would not mumble, but learn the art of clear, distinct speech.

    21 Frank Crane
  • The preacher again began to mumble a prayer, and the whole pack with him; and then they prayed again, this time not so loudly.

    True Bear Stories Joaquin Miller
British Dictionary definitions for mumble


to utter indistinctly, as with the mouth partly closed; mutter
(rare) to chew (food) ineffectually or with difficulty
an indistinct or low utterance or sound
Derived Forms
mumbler, noun
mumbling, adjective
mumblingly, adverb
Word Origin
C14 momelen, from mum²
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 mumble

early 14c., momelen, "to eat in a slow, ineffective manner" (perhaps "to talk with one's mouth full"), probably frequentative of interjection mum. The -b- is excrescent. Meaning "to speak indistinctly" is from mid-14c. Related: Mumbled; mumbling.


1902, from mumble (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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mumble in Technology

1. Said when the correct response is too complicated to enunciate, or the speaker has not thought it out. Often prefaces a longer answer, or indicates a general reluctance to get into a long discussion. "Don't you think that we could improve LISP performance by using a hybrid reference-count transaction garbage collector, if the cache is big enough and there are some extra cache bits for the microcode to use?" "Well, mumble ... I'll have to think about it."
2. Yet another metasyntactic variable, like foo.
3. Sometimes used in "public" contexts on-line as a placefiller for things one is barred from giving details about. For example, a poster with pre-released hardware in his machine might say "Yup, my machine now has an extra 16M of memory, thanks to the card I'm testing for Mumbleco."
4. A conversational wild card used to designate something one doesn't want to bother spelling out, but which can be glarked from context. Compare blurgle.
5. [XEROX PARC] A colloquialism used to suggest that further discussion would be fruitless.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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