[gahr-buh l]

verb (used with object), gar·bled, gar·bling.

to confuse unintentionally or ignorantly; jumble: to garble instructions.
to make unfair or misleading selections from or arrangement of (fact, statements, writings, etc.); distort: to garble a quotation.
Archaic. to take out the best of.


the act or process of garbling.
an instance of garbling; a garbled phrase, literary passage, etc.

Origin of garble

1400–50; late Middle English garbelen to remove refuse from spices < Old Italian garbellare to sift < Arabic gharbala < Late Latin crībellāre, derivative of crībellum, diminutive of Latin crībrum sieve (see -elle); probably influenced by garboil
Related formsgar·ble·a·ble, adjectivegar·bler, nounun·gar·bled, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for garble

Contemporary Examples of garble

Historical Examples of garble

  • It will put his case as it is, not as others might garble it, and will obtain the sympathy of all.'

  • He stood on the brim of Garble's lake, shallow and artificial as his past life had been.

  • So too to garble was once to cleanse from dross and dirt, as grocers do their spices, to pick or cull out.

    English Past and Present

    Richard Chevenix Trench

  • As it is dangerous to garble law papers, we shall lay the document before the public just as it appeared.

  • The garbeller had the right to enter any shop or warehouse to view and search for drugs, and to garble and cleanse them.

    Old and New London

    Walter Thornbury

British Dictionary definitions for garble


verb (tr)

to jumble (a story, quotation, etc), esp unintentionally
to distort the meaning of (an account, text, etc), as by making misleading omissions; corrupt
rare to select the best part of


  1. the act of garbling
  2. garbled matter
Derived Formsgarbler, noun

Word Origin for garble

C15: from Old Italian garbellare to strain, sift, from Arabic gharbala, from ghirbāl sieve, from Late Latin crībellum small sieve, from crībrum sieve
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 garble

early 15c., "to inspect and remove refuse from (spices)," from Anglo-French garbeler "to sift" (late 14c.), from Medieval Latin and Italian garbellare, from Arabic gharbala "to sift and select spices," related to kirbal "sieve," perhaps from Late Latin cribellum, diminutive of Latin cribrum "sieve" (see crisis). Apparently a widespread word among Mediterranean traders (cf. Italian garbellare, Spanish garbillo); sense of "mix up, confuse, distort language" (by selecting some things and omitting others) first recorded 1680s. Related: Garbled; garbling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper