[skram-buh l]
See more synonyms for scramble on
verb (used without object), scram·bled, scram·bling.
  1. to climb or move quickly using one's hands and feet, as down a rough incline.
  2. to compete or struggle with others for possession or gain: The children scrambled for the coins we tossed.
  3. to move hastily and with urgency: She scrambled into her coat and ran out the door.
  4. Military. (of pilots or aircraft) to take off as quickly as possible to intercept enemy planes.
verb (used with object), scram·bled, scram·bling.
  1. to collect or organize (things) in a hurried or disorderly manner (often followed by together or up): He scrambled the papers up from the desk. I scrambled the report together at the last minute.
  2. to mix together confusedly: The teacher has hopelessly scrambled our names and faces.
  3. to cause to move hastily, as if in panic: He scrambled everyone out of the burning building.
  4. to cook (eggs) in a pan while stirring, usually after mixing whites and yolks together.
  5. to make (a radio or telephonic message) incomprehensible to interceptors by systematically changing the transmission frequencies.
  6. to mix the elements of (a television signal) so that only subscribers with a decoding box can receive the signal.
  7. Military. to cause (an intercepting aircraft or pilot) to take off in the shortest possible time, in response to an alert.
  1. a quick climb or progression over rough, irregular ground.
  2. a struggle for possession or gain: a scramble for choice seats in the stadium.
  3. any disorderly or hasty struggle or proceeding.
  4. Military. an emergency takeoff of interceptors performed in the shortest possible time.

Origin of scramble

1580–90; blend of dial. scamble to stumble along, and scrabble (in the same sense) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for scramble

Contemporary Examples of scramble

Historical Examples of scramble

  • There was a scramble on the instant for muskets, bags, and belongings.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • The remainder of the ceremony was lost amid the hurry and scramble of the departure.

  • Without answering, the other Sister at once plunged into the midst of the scramble.

  • Somebody said you just had a scramble with old Dmitri himself.


    Dallas McCord Reynolds

  • Silver, even, would be treated with contempt, and there would be a scramble for gold.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

British Dictionary definitions for scramble


  1. (intr) to climb or crawl, esp by using the hands to aid movement
  2. (intr) to proceed hurriedly or in a disorderly fashion
  3. (intr often foll by for) to compete with others, esp in a disordered mannerto scramble for a prize
  4. (intr foll by through) to deal with hurriedly and unsystematically
  5. (tr) to throw together in a haphazard manner; jumble
  6. (tr) to collect in a hurried or disorganized manner
  7. (tr) to cook (eggs that have been whisked up with milk and seasoning) in a pan containing a little melted butter
  8. military to order (a crew or aircraft) to take off immediately or (of a crew or aircraft) to take off immediately
  9. (tr) to render (speech) unintelligible during transmission by means of an electronic scrambler
  1. the act of scrambling
  2. a climb over rocks that involves the use of the hands but not ropes, etc
  3. a disorderly struggle, esp to gain possession
  4. military an immediate preparation for action, as of crew, aircraft, etc
  5. British a motorcycle rally in which competitors race across rough open ground

Word Origin for scramble

C16: blend of scrabble and ramp
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 scramble

1580s (intransitive), perhaps a nasalized variant of scrabble (v.), in its sense of "to struggle, to scrape quickly." Transitive sense "to stir or toss together randomly" is from 1822. Broadcasting sense "to make unintelligible" is attested from 1927. Related: Scrambled; scrambling. Scrambled eggs first recorded 1843.


1670s, "an eager, rude contest or struggle," from scramble (v.). Meaning "a walk or ramble involving clambering and struggling with obstacles" is from 1755. Meaning "rapid take-off" first recorded 1940, R.A.F. slang.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper