• synonyms


[sham-buh l]
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  1. shambles, (used with a singular or plural verb)
    1. a slaughterhouse.
    2. any place of carnage.
    3. any scene of destruction: to turn cities into shambles.
    4. any scene, place, or thing in disorder: Her desk is a shambles.
  2. British Dialect. a butcher's shop or stall.
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Origin of shamble1

before 900; Middle English shamel, Old English sc(e)amel stool, table < Late Latin scamellum, Latin scamillum, diminutive of Latin scamnum bench; compare German Schemel


[sham-buh l]
verb (used without object), sham·bled, sham·bling.
  1. to walk or go awkwardly; shuffle.
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  1. a shambling gait.
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Origin of shamble2

1675–85; perhaps short for shamble-legs one that walks wide (i.e., as if straddling), reminiscent of the legs of a shamble1 (in earlier sense “butcher's table”)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for shamble

Historical Examples

  • Yes, that she would, and all at once the pails began to shamble up the hill.

    Boys and Girls Bookshelf (Vol 2 of 17)


  • The ivory Pequod was turned into what seemed a shamble; every sailor a butcher.

  • He did not shamble along, as though his courage had been driven from his body.

    Footprints in the Forest

    Edward Sylvester Ellis

  • The men were past revolt now, they could only shamble dizzily about.

    Beggars on Horseback

    F. Tennyson Jesse

  • They could not walk, they could only shamble; they could not laugh, they could only leer.

British Dictionary definitions for shamble


  1. (intr) to walk or move along in an awkward or unsteady way
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  1. an awkward or unsteady walk
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Derived Formsshambling, adjective, noun

Word Origin

C17: from shamble (adj) ungainly, perhaps from the phrase shamble legs legs resembling those of a meat vendor's table; see shambles
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 shamble


"to walk with a shuffling gait, walk awkwardly and unsteadily," 1680s, from an adjective meaning "ungainly, awkward" (c.1600), from shamble (n.) "table, bench" (see shambles), perhaps on the notion of the splayed legs of bench, or the way a worker sits astride it. Cf. French bancal "bow-legged, wobbly" (of furniture), properly "bench-legged," from banc "bench." The noun meaning "a shambling gait" is from 1828. Related: Shambled; shambling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper