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[muhd-l] /ˈmʌd l/
verb (used with object), muddled, muddling.
to mix up in a confused or bungling manner; jumble.
to cause to become mentally confused.
to cause to become confused or stupid with or as if with an intoxicating drink.
to make muddy or turbid, as water.
to mix or stir (a cocktail, chocolate, etc.).
Ceramics. to smooth (clay) by rubbing it on glass.
verb (used without object), muddled, muddling.
to behave, proceed, or think in a confused or aimless fashion or with an air of improvisation:
Some people just muddle along, waiting for their big break.
the state or condition of being muddled, especially a confused mental state.
a confused, disordered, or embarrassing condition; mess.
Verb phrases
muddle through, to achieve a certain degree of success but without much skill, polish, experience, or direction:
None of us knew much about staging a variety show, so we just had to muddle through.
Origin of muddle
1540-50; mud + -le; cognate with Middle Dutch moddelen to muddy
Related forms
muddledness, muddlement, noun
muddlingly, adverb
premuddle, noun, verb (used with object), premuddled, premuddling.
unmuddled, adjective
1. confuse, botch, bungle, spoil. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for muddled
  • The symptoms of this decline are clear, from losing track of house keys to getting easily muddled and confused.
  • First of a three-part series on muddled federal wetland regulations.
  • Nevertheless, the message may be already getting muddled.
  • Official denials so far have been muddled and unconvincing.
  • The conventional academic hierarchies are quite muddled in the digital humanities.
  • The result was a partial, muddled and self-contradictory plan, leading eventually to this week's debacle.
  • But the outbreak of anger about bankers' bonuses is muddled and comes too late.
  • Instead they have muddled along, wandering down many a dead end in the process.
  • Probably that psychiatry isn't such a muddled exercise or that there might be some kind of progress.
  • The public discussion of our empirical strategy and results has been somewhat muddled.
British Dictionary definitions for muddled


verb (transitive)
(often foll by up) to mix up (objects, items, etc); jumble
to confuse
to make (water) muddy or turbulent
(US) to mix or stir (alcoholic drinks, etc)
a state of physical or mental confusion
Derived Forms
muddled, adjective
muddledness, muddlement, noun
muddling, adjective, noun
muddlingly, adverb
muddly, adjective
Word Origin
C16: perhaps from Middle Dutch moddelen to make muddy
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 muddled



1590s, "destroy the clarity of" (a transferred sense); literal sense ("to bathe in mud") is from c.1600; perhaps frequentative formation from mud, or from Dutch moddelen "to make (water) muddy," from the same Proto-Germanic source. Sense of "to make muddy" is from 1670s; that of "make confused" first recorded 1680s. Meaning "to bungle" is from 1885. Related: Muddled; muddling.


1818, from muddle (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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