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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 dabbling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I should explain that I was dabbling in finance just then, fairly successfully, and had transactions with Ravengar.

    Hugo Arnold Bennett
  • And instead of dabbling in religion for myself I put myself in its hands.

  • Worse,—he has been dabbling in Wall Street and may lose every cent he has.

    Peter F. Hopkinson Smith
  • That's rather hard on the rest of us who are dabbling in politics.

    A Man of Two Countries Alice Harriman
  • The motion of the bill in dabbling crushed the food, and facilitated its introduction into a pipe placed beneath the lower bill.

British Dictionary definitions for dabbling


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 dabbling



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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