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stumble

[stuhm-buh l]
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verb (used without object), stum·bled, stum·bling.
  1. to strike the foot against something, as in walking or running, so as to stagger or fall; trip.
  2. to walk or go unsteadily: to stumble down a dark passage.
  3. to make a slip, mistake, or blunder, especially a sinful one: to stumble over a question; to stumble and fall from grace.
  4. to proceed in a hesitating or blundering manner, as in action or speech (often followed by along).
  5. to discover or meet with accidentally or unexpectedly (usually followed by on, upon, or across): They stumbled on a little village.
  6. to falter or hesitate, as at an obstacle to progress or belief.
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verb (used with object), stum·bled, stum·bling.
  1. to cause to stumble; trip.
  2. to give pause to; puzzle or perplex.
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noun
  1. the act of stumbling.
  2. a moral lapse or error.
  3. a slip or blunder.
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Origin of stumble

1275–1325; Middle English stumblen; cognate with Norwegian stumla to grope and stumble in the dark; akin to stammer
Related formsstum·bler, nounstum·bling·ly, adverbun·stum·bling, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for stumble

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • It would be a stroke of luck if I could stumble on one of his hiding places!

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Mr Vladimir did not stumble, did not stagger back, did not change his stride.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • Within the bounds of possibility, their turn to stumble might now be imminent.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • There is no stumble in you, for you have done a great deed, and the Red Gods are smiling.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • I should stumble and fall over the smallest pebble in the path.


British Dictionary definitions for stumble

stumble

verb (intr)
  1. to trip or fall while walking or running
  2. to walk in an awkward, unsteady, or unsure way
  3. to make mistakes or hesitate in speech or actions
  4. (foll by across or upon) to come (across) by accident
  5. to commit a grave mistake or sin
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noun
  1. a false step, trip, or blunder
  2. the act of stumbling
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Derived Formsstumbler, nounstumbling, adjectivestumblingly, adverb

Word Origin

C14: related to Norwegian stumla, Danish dialect stumle; see 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 stumble

v.

c.1300, "to trip or miss one's footing" (physically or morally), probably from a Scandinavian source (cf. dialectal Norwegian stumla, Swedish stambla "to stumble"), probably from a variant of the Proto-Germanic base *stam-, source of Old English stamerian "to stammer," German stumm "dumb, silent." Possibly influenced in form by stumpen "to stumble," but the -b- may be purely euphonious. Meaning "to come (upon) by chance" is attested from 1550s. Stumbling-block first recorded 1526, used in Rom. xiv:13 to translate Greek skandalon.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper