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verb (used without object), hob·bled, hob·bling.
  1. to walk lamely; limp.
  2. to proceed irregularly and haltingly: His verses hobble with their faulty meters.
verb (used with object), hob·bled, hob·bling.
  1. to cause to limp: His tight shoes hobbled him.
  2. to fasten together the legs of (a horse, mule, etc.) by short lengths of rope to prevent free motion.
  3. to impede; hamper the progress of.
  1. an act of hobbling; an uneven, halting gait; a limp.
  2. a rope, strap, etc., used to hobble an animal.
  3. hobbles, a leg harness for controlling the gait of a pacer.
  4. Archaic. an awkward or difficult situation.

Origin of hobble

1300–50; Middle English hobelen, apparently akin to hob protuberance, uneven ground, and to Dutch hobbelen, German hoppeln to jolt
Related formshob·bler, nounun·hob·bled, adjectiveun·hob·bling, adjective

Synonyms for hobble

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Antonyms for hobble

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for hobble


  1. (intr) to walk with a lame awkward movement
  2. (tr) to fetter the legs of (a horse) in order to restrict movement
  3. to progress unevenly or with difficulty
  4. (tr) to hamper or restrict (the actions or scope of a person, organization, etc)
  1. a strap, rope, etc, used to hobble a horse
  2. a limping gait
  3. British dialect a difficult or embarrassing situation
  4. a castrated ferret
Also (for senses 2, 5): hopple
Derived Formshobbler, noun

Word Origin for hobble

C14: probably from Low German; compare Flemish hoppelen, Middle Dutch hobbelen to 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

Word Origin and History for hobble

c.1300, hoblen "to rock back and forth, toss up and down," probably related to its Dutch cognate hobbelen (which, however, is not recorded before late 15c.).

Meaning "to walk lamely" is from c.1400. Transitive sense of "tie the legs (of an animal)" first recorded 1831, probably an alteration of 16c. hopple, cognate with Flemish hoppelen "to rock, jump," which also is related to Dutch hobbelen. Sense of "hamper, hinder" is c.1870. Related: Hobbled; hobbling. The noun is 1727, from the verb.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper