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[muhm-buh l]
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verb (used without object), mum·bled, mum·bling.
  1. to speak in a low indistinct manner, almost to an unintelligible extent; mutter.
  2. to chew ineffectively, as from loss of teeth: to mumble on a crust.
verb (used with object), mum·bled, mum·bling.
  1. to say or utter indistinctly, as with partly closed lips: He mumbled something about expenses.
  2. to chew, or try to eat, with difficulty, as from loss of teeth.
  1. 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 formsmum·bler, nounmum·bling·ly, adverbhalf-mum·bled, adjectiveun·mum·bled, adjectiveun·mum·bling, adjective


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1, 3. See murmur.


1. articulate.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mumbling

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I liked the sound of this and so kept on mumbling "All dead, all dead."

  • His voice had a mumbling quality and I noticed the strangeness in his eyes.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • "Restrain your improper violence," he went on mumbling rapidly.

  • "Don't go near him," said O'Brien, in a thick, mumbling voice.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

  • "Death amongst friends is but a festival," he quoted, mumbling in his moustache.

    The Rescue

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for mumbling


  1. to utter indistinctly, as with the mouth partly closed; mutter
  2. rare to chew (food) ineffectually or with difficulty
  1. an indistinct or low utterance or sound
Derived Formsmumbler, nounmumbling, adjectivemumblingly, adverb

Word Origin

C14 momelen, from mum ²
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 mumbling



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