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verb (used without object), dab·bled, dab·bling.
  1. to play and splash in or as if in water, especially with the hands.
  2. to work at anything in an irregular or superficial manner: to dabble in literature.
  3. (of a duck) to feed on shallow-water vegetation with rapid, splashing movements of the bill.
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verb (used with object), dab·bled, dab·bling.
  1. to wet slightly in or with a liquid; splash; spatter.
  2. Chiefly South Midland U.S. to wash or rinse off lightly.
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Origin of dabble

1550–60; probably dab1 + -le; compare Dutch dabbelen, dabben
Related formsdab·bler, noundab·bling·ly, adverbun·dab·bled, adjective

Synonyms for dabble

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

Related Words for dabbler

dilettante, beginner, novice, abecedarian, loafer, pretender, tyro, trifler, tinkerer, nonprofessional, smatterer

Examples from the Web for dabbler

Contemporary Examples of dabbler

Historical Examples of dabbler

British Dictionary definitions for dabbler


  1. to dip, move, or splash (the fingers, feet, etc) in a liquid
  2. (intr; usually foll by in, with, or at) to deal (with) or work (at) frivolously or superficially; play (at)
  3. (tr) to daub, mottle, splash, or smearhis face was dabbled with paint
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Derived Formsdabbler, noun

Word Origin for dabble

C16: probably from Dutch dabbelen; see dab 1
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 dabbler



1550s, probably a frequentative of dab. Original meaning was "wet by splashing;" modern figurative sense of "do superficially" first recorded 1620s. Related: Dabbled; dabbling. An Ellen Dablewife is in the Lancashire Inquests from 1336.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper