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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)

Example Sentences

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
In the meantime, Cook and his team will have to muddle their way through China’s COVID discombobulation. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 28 Nov. 2022 Peel eight limes, add sugar and muddle to bruise them. Jason O'bryan, Robb Report, 9 Nov. 2022 Any longer and the words muddle together; the image turns to mush. Kevin Kelly, WIRED, 17 Nov. 2022 How will this midterm muddle change life for Americans? CBS News, 13 Nov. 2022 Spicy rye, fresh orange juice, and muddle sage balance each other very well in this fancy fall sipper. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, 17 Oct. 2022 But experts in the fields of peace and security warn that the bleak geopolitical picture may muddle 2022’s award. Kara Fox, CNN, 7 Oct. 2022 This can cloud a reader’s understanding of a study by overestimating its importance or simply muddle one’s understanding with excess words. Theresa Gaffney, STAT, 1 Sep. 2022 TikToks has demonstrated that parasocial relationships — one-sided emotional investments in public figures — can muddle appropriate boundaries online. Morgan Sung, NBC News, 26 Aug. 2022
The muddle created by the family’s inability to reconcile warring factions has resulted in stagnation at the local level, party officials say, and high-ranking defections. Sameer Yasir, New York Times, 3 Dec. 2022 This produces a confusing muddle to outsiders, even if insiders are able to discern the distinctive strands within the intellectual gumbo. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 10 Feb. 2013 Son found that the muddle onstage in the old hall also forced the orchestra as a whole to rely more on the conductor. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 6 Oct. 2022 Blame a tangle of lingering buffeters, including the pandemic recovery, consumer demand, Ukraine and the supply chain muddle, which is why averting a railroad strike was so critical. CBS News, 18 Sep. 2022 In 2-cup liquid measuring cup, muddle mint leaves in Simple Syrup until bruised. Krissa Rossbund, Better Homes & Gardens, 20 Sep. 2022 More on College Sports From Power 5 to Mighty 2: As the Big Ten and the SEC consolidate power, some fear the rest of college sports could become a muddle. New York Times, 19 Aug. 2022 From this muddle of anger, confusion and regret, though, a movement was born. Dan Barry,, 10 July 2022 Jablonka’s desire to trace all the world’s hierarchies, injustices, and conflicts back to one prehistoric fit of reproductive jealousy leads to a good deal of muddle as things proceed. Zoë Heller, The New Yorker, 1 Aug. 2022 See More

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

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 27 Jan. 2023.

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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