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[dab-uh l] /ˈdæb əl/
verb (used without object), dabbled, dabbling.
to play and splash in or as if in water, especially with the hands.
to work at anything in an irregular or superficial manner:
to dabble in literature.
(of a duck) to feed on shallow-water vegetation with rapid, splashing movements of the bill.
verb (used with object), dabbled, dabbling.
to wet slightly in or with a liquid; splash; spatter.
Chiefly South Midland U.S. to wash or rinse off lightly.
Origin of dabble
1550-60; probably dab1 + -le; compare Dutch dabbelen, dabben
Related forms
dabbler, noun
dabblingly, adverb
undabbled, adjective
2. putter, fiddle, toy, dally. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for dabbled
  • He's already dabbled in stop-motion animation where his objects act out more elaborate scenes.
  • He had dabbled in online marketing and was studying to get his real estate license.
  • They dabbled in teaching, ad copywriting, architecture criticism and still photography.
  • He dabbled in television and also worked as a scriptwriter and editor.
  • Although it has dabbled in technology, the party largely missed out on the high-tech boom of the last decade.
  • She has dabbled in appropriations law because it seems to answer so many questions.
  • In fact, she dabbled in golf and sports club marketing early in her career.
  • He remained single through his twenties and thirties, dabbled in photography, and did some work for a local newspaper.
  • He dabbled in alchemy and devoted himself to theology.
  • He was a woodcarver by trade but was also an antiquarian and dabbled in inventing.
British Dictionary definitions for dabbled


to dip, move, or splash (the fingers, feet, etc) in a liquid
(intransitive; usually foll by in, with, or at) to deal (with) or work (at) frivolously or superficially; play (at)
(transitive) to daub, mottle, splash, or smear: his face was dabbled with paint
Derived Forms
dabbler, noun
Word Origin
C16: probably from Dutch dabbelen; see dab1
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
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Word Origin and History for dabbled



1550s, probably a frequentative of dab. Original meaning was "wet by splashing;" modern figurative sense of "do superficially" first recorded 1620s. Related: Dabbled; dabbling. An Ellen Dablewife is in the Lancashire Inquests from 1336.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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