• synonyms


[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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  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

Related Words for stumbled

bumble, shuffle, hesitate, wobble, limp, swing, lurch, flounder, lumber, waver, fall, falter, careen, bump, tumble, totter, topple, err, tilt, stammer

Examples from the Web for stumbled

Contemporary Examples of stumbled

Historical Examples of stumbled

  • I stumbled on the case, and will do professionally all that is needed.

  • Thus freed of that strangling embrace, Dick stumbled blindly to his feet.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • They had stumbled in the dark on the bedding-place of a flock of Bighorn.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • But Stevie had stumbled within five minutes of being left to himself.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • Dimly I gathered that she had stumbled, and he had saved her from falling.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

British Dictionary definitions for stumbled


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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  1. a false step, trip, or blunder
  2. the act of stumbling
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Derived Formsstumbler, nounstumbling, adjectivestumblingly, adverb

Word Origin for stumble

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 stumbled



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