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[fuhm-buh l] /ˈfʌm bəl/
verb (used without object), fumbled, fumbling.
to feel or grope about clumsily:
She fumbled in her purse for the keys.
Sports. to fumble the ball.
verb (used with object), fumbled, fumbling.
to make, handle, etc., clumsily or inefficiently:
to fumble an attempt; He fumbled his way through the crowded room.
Sports. to fail to hold or maintain hold on (a ball) after having touched it or carried it.
the act of fumbling:
We completed the difficult experiment without a fumble.
Sports. an act or instance of fumbling the ball.
Origin of fumble
1500-10; akin to Norwegian, Swedish fumla, Middle Low German fummeln to grope, fumble
Related forms
fumbler, noun
fumblingly, adverb
fumblingness, noun
outfumble, verb (used with object), outfumbled, outfumbling.
unfumbled, adjective
unfumbling, adjective
3. bungle, botch, mishandle, spoil, muff. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for fumble
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You will find that most every one who has to handle a prop will fumble it, will be terribly awkward with it.

  • He began to fumble presently for his Bible,—he must have some help.

  • He was three francs behind and started to fumble around in his pockets to find the change.

    The A.E.F. Heywood Broun
  • No language except the chaos we fumble with could make it possible.

    In a Little Town Rupert Hughes
  • And, if he appeared to fumble and have trouble with the latch, what of it!

British Dictionary definitions for fumble


(intransitive; often foll by for or with) to grope about clumsily or blindly, esp in searching: he was fumbling in the dark for the money he had dropped
(intransitive; foll by at or with) to finger or play with, esp in an absent-minded way
to say or do hesitantly or awkwardly: he fumbled the introduction badly
to fail to catch or grasp (a ball, etc) cleanly
the act of fumbling
Derived Forms
fumbler, noun
fumblingly, adverb
fumblingness, noun
Word Origin
C16: probably of Scandinavian origin; related to Swedish fumla
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 fumble

mid-15c., "handle clumsily," possibly from Old Norse falma "to fumble, grope." Similar words in Scandinavian and North Sea Germanic suggest onomatopoeia from a sound felt to indicate clumsiness (cf. bumble, stumble, and obsolete English famble, fimble of roughly the same meaning). Related: Fumbled; fumbling.


1640s, from fumble (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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