1

garble

verb gar·ble \ ˈgär-bəl \
Updated on: 11 Sep 2017

Definition of garble

garbled; garbling play \ˈgär-b(ə-)liŋ\
transitive verb
1 archaic :cull 1
2 :to sift impurities from
3 a :to so alter or distort as to create a wrong impression or change the meaning
  • garble a story
b :to introduce textual error into (a message) by inaccurate encipherment, transmission, or decipherment

garbler

play \ˈgär-b(ə-)lər\ noun

garble was our Word of the Day on 08/09/2017. Hear the podcast!

Examples of garble in a Sentence

  1. the candidate complained that his views had been deliberately garbled by his opponent

  2. garbled spices are less likely to contaminate a recipe

Recent Examples of garble from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'garble.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

The Winding History of garble

Garble developed from Late Latin cribellare, a verb meaning "to sift." Arabic speakers borrowed "cribellare" as "gharbala," and the Arabic word passed into Old Italian as garbellare; both of these words also meant "to sift." When the word first entered Middle English as "garbelen," its meaning stayed close to the original; it meant "to sort out the best." But that sort of sifting can cause a distortion, and in early Modern English "garble" came to mean "to distort the meaning or sound of."

Origin and Etymology of garble

Middle English garbelen "to remove impurites or refuse from (spices)," borrowed from Anglo-French garbeler, probably borrowed—directly or from Italian *garbellare (attested in Medieval Latin of Verona as garbellāre in 1319)—from Arabic gharbala "to sift, screen," derivative of ghirbāl "sieve," borrowed from Late Latin crībellum, diminutive of Latin crībrum "sieve" — more at 3riddle
Note: Presumably a word passed from Arabic to Mediterranean Europe through trade in Eastern spices. The earliest evidence of the Romance/Latin etymon is in a statute of the city of Marseille (recording both garbellare and garbellum "sieve, riddle") from 1269 (though there is apparently no corresponding word in Old Occitan). The French form garbalé (past participle of the verb) is attested in a document from Bruges in Flanders dated to 1304. Joan Coromines (Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico) believes the word was first adopted from Arabic in Catalonia, partly on the basis of the half-Catalan phrase grana assaonada "ripened grains [?]" used in the above-mentioned Marseille statute.


2

garble

noun

Definition of garble

1 :the impurities removed from spices in sifting
2 :an act or an instance of garbling

Recent Examples of garble from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'garble.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of garble

derivative of 1garble; in sense 1 perhaps in part borrowed from Italian garbello, noun derivative of garbellare


GARBLE Defined for English Language Learners

garble

verb

Definition of garble for English Language Learners

  • : to cause (a word, name, message, etc.) to be unclear or confusing


GARBLE Defined for Kids

garble

verb gar·ble \ ˈgär-bəl \

Definition of garble for Students

garbled; garbling
:to change or twist the meaning or sound of
  • He garbled the message.

History for garble

At first the word garble meant “to sift” or “to sort or pick out.” If you pick out a few misleading parts of a message and report only those parts, you distort the message, and so garble came to mean “to distort.” It is the meaning “sift,” however, that reflects the origin of garble. The English word garble came from an old Italian verb garbellare that meant “to sift.” This word came in turn from an Arabic word gharbala that meant “sieve.” The Arabs took this word ultimately from a Latin word cribellum that meant “sieve.”



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