[ stuhm-buhl ]
See synonyms for: stumblestumbledstumblingstumbler on

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.

  1. to make a slip, mistake, or blunder, especially a sinful one: to stumble over a question; to stumble and fall from grace.

  2. to proceed in a hesitating or blundering manner, as in action or speech (often followed by along).

  3. to discover or meet with accidentally or unexpectedly (usually followed by on, upon, or across): They stumbled on a little village.

  4. to falter or hesitate, as at an obstacle to progress or belief.

verb (used with object),stum·bled, stum·bling.
  1. to cause to stumble; trip.

  2. to give pause to; puzzle or perplex.

  1. the act of stumbling.

  2. a moral lapse or error.

  1. a slip or blunder.

Origin of stumble

1275–1325; Middle English stumblen; cognate with Norwegian stumla to grope and stumble in the dark; akin to stammer

Other words from stumble

  • stumbler, noun
  • stum·bling·ly, adverb
  • un·stum·bling, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use stumble in a sentence

  • Both stumbled in their first presidential campaigns over issues of their service, or lack thereof, in the fight against communism.

  • NBC stumbled onto a monster of a television show when it gave the green light to Friends in 1994.

  • In the morning I stumbled down the staircase and choked down a chunky breakfast smoothie.

  • After relievedly giving the pistol to the nearest soldier, he stumbled quickly over to Brion and took his hand.

    Sense of Obligation | Henry Maxwell Dempsey (AKA Harry Harrison)
  • We stumbled along, close up, for the thick-piled clouds still hung their light-obscuring banners over the sky.

    Raw Gold | Bertrand W. Sinclair
  • He walked about in the dark until, all of a sudden, he stumbled into a hole that was filled with dried grass.

    Squinty the Comical Pig | Richard Barnum
  • Most of us showed signs, I will not say of being rattled, but of having stumbled against a rattlesnake.

  • He stumbled into the room, from which a heavy smell of perfume swept out upon the landing.

    Dope | Sax Rohmer

British Dictionary definitions for stumble


/ (ˈstʌmbəl) /

  1. to trip or fall while walking or running

  2. to walk in an awkward, unsteady, or unsure way

  1. to make mistakes or hesitate in speech or actions

  2. (foll by across or upon) to come (across) by accident

  3. to commit a grave mistake or sin

  1. a false step, trip, or blunder

  2. the act of stumbling

Origin of stumble

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

Derived forms of stumble

  • stumbler, noun
  • stumbling, adjective
  • stumblingly, adverb

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