• synonyms


[skrab-uh l]
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verb (used with object), scrab·bled, scrab·bling.
  1. to scratch or scrape, as with the claws or hands.
  2. to grapple or struggle with or as if with the claws or hands.
  3. to scrawl; scribble.
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verb (used without object), scrab·bled, scrab·bling.
  1. to scratch or dig frantically with the hands; claw (often followed by at): scrabbling at a locked door to escape the flames.
  2. to jostle or struggle for possession of something; grab or collect something in a disorderly way; scramble.
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  1. a scratching or scraping, as with the claws or hands.
  2. a scrawled or scribbled writing.
  3. a disorderly struggle for possession of something; scramble: After the fumble, there was a scrabble for the football.
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Origin of scrabble

1530–40; < Dutch schrabbelen to scratch, frequentative of schrabben to scrape
Related formsscrab·bler, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for scrabbling

contend, rush, vie, scurry, jostle, clamber, push, climb, crawl, scribble, inscribe, scratch, dig, rip, poke, slither, drag, wriggle, plod, slide

Examples from the Web for scrabbling

Historical Examples of scrabbling

  • He swung into his waistcoat and coat, scrabbling at the buttons in the violence of his emotions.

    The Octopus

    Frank Norris

  • All this scrabbling around, searching everywhere for suitable planets.

    They Also Serve

    Donald E. Westlake

  • He appeared to be scrabbling about the floor, playing with her foot.

    Furze the Cruel

    John Trevena

  • When he was gone, I found Jim Edwards scrabbling for his hat where it had dropped over behind the desk.

  • There was one expanse that was sheer rock-climbing, flattened like bugs against a wall, scrabbling for hand-holds and footholds.

    The Planet Savers

    Marion Zimmer Bradley

British Dictionary definitions for scrabbling


  1. (intr; often foll by about or at) to scrape (at) or grope (for), as with hands or claws
  2. to struggle (with)
  3. (intr often foll by for) to struggle to gain possession, esp in a disorderly manner
  4. to scribble
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  1. the act or an instance of scrabbling
  2. a scribble
  3. a disorderly struggle
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Word Origin for scrabble

C16: from Middle Dutch shrabbelen, frequentative of shrabben to scrape


  1. trademark a board game in which words are formed by placing lettered tiles in a pattern similar to a crossword puzzle
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Derived FormsScrabbler, noun
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 scrabbling



1530s, "to scrawl, scribble," from Dutch schrabbelen, frequentative of schrabben "to scratch," from the same root as scrape (v.). Meaning "to struggle, scramble" first recorded 1630s. Related: Scrabbled; scrabbling.

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board game, 1949, proprietary name (registered U.S.), probably from scribble-scrabble "hasty writing" (1580s), a reduplication of scribble (n.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper