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mud·​dle ˈmə-dᵊl How to pronounce muddle (audio)
muddled; muddling ˈməd-liŋ How to pronounce muddle (audio)

transitive verb

: to make turbid or muddy
muddled the brook with his splashings
: to befog or stupefy (see stupefy sense 1) especially with liquor
The drink muddled him and his voice became loud and domineering.
: to mix confusedly
muddles the household accounts
: to make a mess of : bungle
muddled themselves into the most indefensible positionsA. N. Whitehead

intransitive verb

: to think or act in a confused aimless way
She muddled along for a year before going to college.
ˈməd-lər How to pronounce muddle (audio)


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: a state of especially mental confusion
: a confused mess
ˈməd-lē How to pronounce muddle (audio)

Examples of muddle in a Sentence

Verb a car shopper thoroughly muddled by too much well-meaning advice some mischievous brat had muddled the household accounts Noun His papers were in a muddle. His mind was a muddle.
Recent Examples on the Web
Apple’s Foundation and Pachinko nail the aesthetic elements of the classic books they’re based on but muddle their plots beyond recognition. TIME, 7 Feb. 2024 The picture is further muddled by the fact that there is no precedent. Laura He, CNN, 31 Jan. 2024 Salads flavored with a simple syrup or herbs muddled in sugar need at least half an hour or up to a few hours for the flavors to combine. Becky Krystal, Charlotte Observer, 30 Jan. 2024 This disrupts the forward momentum of the original, muddling its story’s clarity. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 18 Jan. 2024 In 2001, the Senate aging committee commissioned a working group that spent two years producing a list of recommendations muddled by internal dissent and disagreement. Christopher Rowland, Washington Post, 16 Jan. 2024 Herbs like mint came from potted plants behind the stick, attached to the stem until about 10 seconds before getting muddled in your drink. Jason O'Bryan, Robb Report, 13 Jan. 2024 But a chaotic end to 2023 on top of California’s jungle primary system has left the landscape muddled. Max Thornberry, Washington Examiner, 4 Jan. 2024 The team decided to not include Catwoman, as not to muddle the waters with another character who’s been Batman’s romantic interest. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 8 Dec. 2023
The decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2 is just the latest policy muddle offered up by the UK government. Hanna Ziady, CNN, 4 Oct. 2023 But out of this geopolitical muddle, a new world older is lurching into motion. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 8 Sep. 2023 As a result, no single party or coalition immediately gained enough parliamentary seats to govern, thrusting Spain into a familiar political muddle and giving new life to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who only days ago seemed moribund. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 24 July 2023 But the book’s chief interest now stems from its own theological muddle. Louis Bayard, Washington Post, 19 Aug. 2023 The outcome was an inconclusive election and a political muddle that has become familiar to Spaniards since their two-party system fractured nearly a decade ago. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 23 July 2023 Others ducked the muddle entirely by keeping their employees working from home well into the future. Anchorage Daily News, 2 Aug. 2021 As an illustration of the muddle the Windsors now find themselves in, the concert was second to none. Mike McCahill, Variety, 8 May 2023 Faced with the realities of climate change, some people switch abruptly from complacency to doomerism—perhaps because certainty of any kind feels safer than the muddle of a looming crisis. Katharine Gammon, The Atlantic, 16 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'muddle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

probably from obsolete Dutch moddelen, from Middle Dutch, from modde mud; akin to Middle Low German mudde

First Known Use


1676, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1808, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of muddle was in 1676

Dictionary Entries Near muddle

Cite this Entry

“Muddle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
mud·​dle ˈməd-ᵊl How to pronounce muddle (audio)
muddled; muddling ˈməd-liŋ How to pronounce muddle (audio)
: to be or cause to be confused or bewildered : stupefy
muddled by too much advice
: to mix up in a confused way
muddle the household accounts
: to think or act in a confused way : bungle
muddle through a task
-lər How to pronounce muddle (audio)


2 of 2 noun
: a state of confusion or bewilderment
: a confused mess : jumble

More from Merriam-Webster on muddle

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