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[stuhm-buh l] /ˈstʌm bəl/
verb (used without object), stumbled, stumbling.
to strike the foot against something, as in walking or running, so as to stagger or fall; trip.
to walk or go unsteadily:
to stumble down a dark passage.
to make a slip, mistake, or blunder, especially a sinful one:
to stumble over a question; to stumble and fall from grace.
to proceed in a hesitating or blundering manner, as in action or speech (often followed by along).
to discover or meet with accidentally or unexpectedly (usually followed by on, upon, or across):
They stumbled on a little village.
to falter or hesitate, as at an obstacle to progress or belief.
verb (used with object), stumbled, stumbling.
to cause to stumble; trip.
to give pause to; puzzle or perplex.
the act of stumbling.
a moral lapse or error.
a slip or blunder.
Origin of stumble
1275-1325; Middle English stumblen; cognate with Norwegian stumla to grope and stumble in the dark; akin to stammer
Related forms
stumbler, noun
stumblingly, adverb
unstumbling, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for stumble across
Historical Examples
  • "Strange I should stumble across this chap," he mumbled to himself.

    The Loyalist James Francis Barrett
  • We can keep trying,” said Pilar, “and hope we stumble across it by accident.

    Cum Grano Salis Gordon Randall Garrett
  • He was the orfulest-lookin' cuss it was ever my fortin' to stumble across.

  • I only meant that of course they will stumble across each other in London.

    The Duke's Children

    Anthony Trollope
  • Every now and then, though, they stumble across a real honest-to-goodness thrill, a story that's worth the telling.

    On Secret Service William Nelson Taft
  • You may stumble across a picturesque piece of human nature that will unsteady your nerves for half a day.

    From Sea to Sea Rudyard Kipling
  • Some little way up the further shore I stumble across the road again.

    Northern Spain Edgar T. A. Wigram
  • The other names we made up from a local directory which we were lucky enough to stumble across in the pavilion.

    Boycotted Talbot Baines Reed
  • When he rises from his chair, after a couple of hours, he has only enough strength left to stumble across the room.

    Married August Strindberg
  • He will not lower nor raise his voice for the sake of the profane and idle who may chance to stumble across his entertainment.

    Style Walter Raleigh
British Dictionary definitions for stumble across


verb (intransitive)
to trip or fall while walking or running
to walk in an awkward, unsteady, or unsure way
to make mistakes or hesitate in speech or actions
foll by across or upon. to come (across) by accident
to commit a grave mistake or sin
a false step, trip, or blunder
the act of stumbling
Derived Forms
stumbler, noun
stumbling, adjective
stumblingly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: related to Norwegian stumla, Danish dialect stumle; see stammer
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 stumble across



c.1300, "to trip or miss one's footing" (physically or morally), probably from a Scandinavian source (cf. dialectal Norwegian stumla, Swedish stambla "to stumble"), probably from a variant of the Proto-Germanic base *stam-, source of Old English stamerian "to stammer," German stumm "dumb, silent." Possibly influenced in form by stumpen "to stumble," but the -b- may be purely euphonious. Meaning "to come (upon) by chance" is attested from 1550s. Stumbling-block first recorded 1526, used in Rom. xiv:13 to translate Greek skandalon.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for stumble across



To be arrested; fall (1950s+ Underworld)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with stumble across

stumble across

Also,stumble on. Find by chance, discover or meet with unexpectedly. For example, When we were hiking up the mountain we stumbled across a few abandoned shepherd's huts, or At the flea market Alfred stumbled on a quite valuable old lithograph. This idiom uses stumble in the sense of “accidentally trip.” [ Mid-1500s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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