gar·​ble | \ ˈgär-bəl How to pronounce garble (audio) \
garbled; garbling\ ˈgär-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce garbling (audio) \

Definition of garble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : 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
2 : to sift impurities from
3 archaic : cull sense 1



Definition of garble (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Other Words from garble


garbler \ ˈgär-​b(ə-​)lər How to pronounce garbler (audio) \ noun

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."

Examples of garble in a Sentence

Verb the candidate complained that his views had been deliberately garbled by his opponent garbled spices are less likely to contaminate a recipe
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The recording was garbled at times, the newspaper reported, but a man told the authorities that a woman had fallen into a creek and couldn’t be pulled from the water. Ashley Remkus |, al, "Huntsville FBI photographer’s ‘suspicious’ death under investigation," 14 Oct. 2019 The league’s initial response to the Morey fiasco was garbled, vague, and contradictory. Nathaniel Friedman, The New Republic, "In Its Fight With China, the NBA Shows Its True Colors," 11 Oct. 2019 This dynamic environment is always changing and could easily garble radio signals coming through our atmosphere. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "NASA's newest mission, ICON, expected to launch tonight," 10 Oct. 2019 These early reports were garbled and contradictory. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "How the Manson murders changed Hollywood, explained by Joan Didion," 8 Aug. 2019 Michael Ramsaur’s lighting and Andrew Heller’s sound are both fine, though there are places in the cavernous (941 seats) Smithwick Theatre where sound is garbled. Joanne Engelhardt, The Mercury News, "Theater review: ‘Cinderella’ gets a make-over worth seeing," 25 July 2019 The accents were not a problem when the actors spoke slowly, but when Rose was excited or angry, her rapid pace garbled some of her lines. Elizabeth Marie Himchak, Pomerado News, "REVIEW: ‘Matilda the Musical’ has surprise twists on movie’s plot," 24 July 2019 When there’s noise in the whale’s water, like a boat sound, some of the whale songs get garbled. Brian Resnick, Vox, "What humpback whales can teach us about alien languages," 6 Dec. 2018 Siri often doesn't hear me correctly, so my texts get garbled. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "“Computer, lights:” How Ars staffers actually use voice-interactive bots," 3 Sep. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The audio reflects about 30 minutes of radio transmissions edited for brevity and elimination of gaps and garbles. D. Kwas, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Semitrailer driver cited in crash that shut down I-43 near Mitchell Interchange," 27 Aug. 2019 At every turn, Guyatt either garbles or corrupts my arguments. Nicholas Guyatt, The New York Review of Books, "‘No Property in Man’: An Exchange," 6 June 2019 But the video — and subsequent performances, including a cringey SNL appearance — contains visual and lyrical content that is not a focused homage to Japan but rather a garble of exociticizing Asian signifiers. Andrew Chow,, "Let's Be Real: Asian And Black Artists Aren't "Celebrating" Each Other Through Hip-Hop," 22 May 2018 There are bouts of puppy love (and more intense crushes), plenty of witty garbles from Sunny, and some Broadway-worthy performances from Harris (the end of episode three might be the grandest of them all). Michaela Bechler, Vogue, "A Series of Unfortunate Events," 29 Mar. 2018 Indeed, Messina had given birth to a tool that would infiltrate our vernacular, aggregate conversations and, yes, fill screens with unnecessary, meaningless garble. Matt Stevens, The Seattle Times, "As the hashtag celebrates its 10th birthday, are we #blessed?," 27 Aug. 2017 Indeed, Messina had given birth to a tool that would infiltrate our vernacular, aggregate conversations and, yes, fill screens with unnecessary, meaningless garble. Matt Stevens, The Seattle Times, "As the hashtag celebrates its 10th birthday, are we #blessed?," 27 Aug. 2017 Indeed, Messina had given birth to a tool that would infiltrate our vernacular, aggregate conversations and, yes, fill screens with unnecessary, meaningless garble. The New York Times,, "As the hashtag marks its 10th birthday, are we #blessed?," 24 Aug. 2017 Tinkerbell is a man in a white tutu, who speaks in a garble impossible to understand. Susan Dunne,, "National Theatre Live's 'Peter Pan' In Area Theaters," 5 June 2017

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.

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First Known Use of garble


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1502, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for 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 riddle entry 3

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.


derivative of garble entry 1; in sense 2 perhaps in part borrowed from Italian garbello, noun derivative of garbellare

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Last Updated

16 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for garble

The first known use of garble was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for garble


How to pronounce garble (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of garble

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


gar·​ble | \ ˈgär-bəl How to pronounce garble (audio) \
garbled; garbling

Kids Definition of garble

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on garble

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for garble

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with garble

Spanish Central: Translation of garble

Nglish: Translation of garble for Spanish Speakers

Comments on garble

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to speed up the process or progress of

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