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[skrab-uh l] /ˈskræb əl/
verb (used with object), scrabbled, scrabbling.
to scratch or scrape, as with the claws or hands.
to grapple or struggle with or as if with the claws or hands.
to scrawl; scribble.
verb (used without object), scrabbled, scrabbling.
to scratch or dig frantically with the hands; claw (often followed by at):
scrabbling at a locked door to escape the flames.
to jostle or struggle for possession of something; grab or collect something in a disorderly way; scramble.
a scratching or scraping, as with the claws or hands.
a scrawled or scribbled writing.
a disorderly struggle for possession of something; scramble:
After the fumble, there was a scrabble for the football.
Origin of scrabble
1530-40; < Dutch schrabbelen to scratch, frequentative of schrabben to scrape
Related forms
scrabbler, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for scrabbled
Historical Examples
  • Then he knocked a glass off the table, and scrabbled for the fragments.

    Tono Bungay H. G. Wells
  • Sornal came to the end of the tape, then scrabbled about and found the beginning.

    Alarm Clock Everett B. Cole
  • She scrabbled over that balcony rail and got a shoulder clutch on me that you couldn't have loosened with a crowbar.

    Shorty McCabe Sewell Ford
  • She scrabbled among the papers, and held up the elevation of a strange square building to his startled eyes.

    Soul of a Bishop H. G. Wells
  • It made her feel good all over to throw corn to the hens and see how they scrabbled for it.

    The Brimming Cup Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Just then there came a sharp stroke and a splash on the window, and something struggled and scrabbled there against the darkness.

    The Unknown Quantity Henry van Dyke
  • There were times when Nicholas seemed to himself hardly more human than the rats that gnawed and scrabbled in the dark at night.

  • Suddenly, he dropped to one knee and scrabbled in the dirt, then scrambled back with something in his hand.

  • Coughing and choking on what must be his own blood, he scrabbled at the knife and ripped it out.

    The Sky Is Falling Lester del Rey
  • Dragging his rifle with his good hand, he scrabbled down to where he could see through the chinks in the slab door.

    Cat and Mouse Ralph Williams
British Dictionary definitions for scrabbled


(intransitive; often foll by about or at) to scrape (at) or grope (for), as with hands or claws
to struggle (with)
(intransitive) often foll by for. to struggle to gain possession, esp in a disorderly manner
to scribble
the act or an instance of scrabbling
a scribble
a disorderly struggle
Word Origin
C16: from Middle Dutch shrabbelen, frequentative of shrabben to scrape


trademark a board game in which words are formed by placing lettered tiles in a pattern similar to a crossword puzzle
Derived Forms
Scrabbler, noun
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 scrabbled



1530s, "to scrawl, scribble," from Dutch schrabbelen, frequentative of schrabben "to scratch," from the same root as scrape (v.). Meaning "to struggle, scramble" first recorded 1630s. Related: Scrabbled; scrabbling.



board game, 1949, proprietary name (registered U.S.), probably from scribble-scrabble "hasty writing" (1580s), a reduplication of scribble (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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