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[sham-buh l] /ˈʃæm bəl/
shambles, (used with a singular or plural verb)
  1. a slaughterhouse.
  2. any place of carnage.
  3. any scene of destruction:
    to turn cities into shambles.
  4. any scene, place, or thing in disorder:
    Her desk is a shambles.
British Dialect. a butcher's shop or stall.
Origin of shamble1
before 900; Middle English shamel, Old English sc(e)amel stool, table < Late Latin scamellum, Latin scamillum, diminutive of Latin scamnum bench; compare German Schemel


[sham-buh l] /ˈʃæm bəl/
verb (used without object), shambled, shambling.
to walk or go awkwardly; shuffle.
a shambling gait.
1675-85; perhaps short for shamble-legs one that walks wide (i.e., as if straddling), reminiscent of the legs of a shamble1 (in earlier sense “butcher's table”) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shamble
Historical Examples
  • Yes, that she would, and all at once the pails began to shamble up the hill.

  • The ivory Pequod was turned into what seemed a shamble; every sailor a butcher.

    Moby Dick; or The Whale Herman Melville
  • He did not shamble along, as though his courage had been driven from his body.

    Footprints in the Forest Edward Sylvester Ellis
  • The men were past revolt now, they could only shamble dizzily about.

    Beggars on Horseback F. Tennyson Jesse
  • They could not walk, they could only shamble; they could not laugh, they could only leer.

  • Chief George waited for no second bidding, but began to shamble off across the snow towards his encampment.

    A Mating in the Wilds Ottwell Binns
  • I gave her a pat on the chin scarcely consistent with my aged and tottering mien and proceeded to shamble painfully to my room.

    A Strange Disappearance Anna Katharine Green
  • Don't you realize that they have watched man creep out of primal slimes, take limbs and shamble, and finally walk?

  • Scammell preserves an older form of shamble(s), originally the benches on which meat was exposed for sale.

    The Romance of Names

    Ernest Weekley
  • The fisherman turned away to shamble noisily over the shingle, huge booted heels crunching, toward one of the dories.

    The Black Bag Louis Joseph Vance
British Dictionary definitions for shamble


(intransitive) to walk or move along in an awkward or unsteady way
an awkward or unsteady walk
Derived Forms
shambling, adjective, noun
Word Origin
C17: from shamble (adj) ungainly, perhaps from the phrase shamble legs legs resembling those of a meat vendor's table; see shambles
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 shamble

"to walk with a shuffling gait, walk awkwardly and unsteadily," 1680s, from an adjective meaning "ungainly, awkward" (c.1600), from shamble (n.) "table, bench" (see shambles), perhaps on the notion of the splayed legs of bench, or the way a worker sits astride it. Cf. French bancal "bow-legged, wobbly" (of furniture), properly "bench-legged," from banc "bench." The noun meaning "a shambling gait" is from 1828. Related: Shambled; shambling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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