[stuhm-buh l]

verb (used without object), stum·bled, stum·bling.

verb (used with object), stum·bled, stum·bling.

to cause to stumble; trip.
to give pause to; puzzle or perplex.


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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stumbles

Contemporary Examples of stumbles

Historical Examples of stumbles

  • He caught up with her in a moment, in spite of some stumbles over the rough road.

    Keziah Coffin

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • The mate comes up, his arm strapped to his side, and stumbles into the cradle.

    With The Night Mail

    Rudyard Kipling

  • Then you've room to pull her if she stumbles; which, by the way, isn't likely.

    Nell, of Shorne Mills

    Charles Garvice

  • Her sensation was like that of one who, hunting a hare, stumbles upon a wolf.

  • My wife's horse sets one of his forefeet on a loose stone, and stumbles.

British Dictionary definitions for stumbles


verb (intr)

to trip or fall while walking or running
to walk in an awkward, unsteady, or unsure way
to make mistakes or hesitate in speech or actions
(foll by across or upon) to come (across) by accident
to commit a grave mistake or sin


a false step, trip, or blunder
the act of stumbling
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 stumbles



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper