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

Definition of muddle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

: to think or act in a confused aimless way She muddled along for a year before going to college.



Definition of muddle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a state of especially mental confusion
2 : a confused mess

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Other Words from muddle


muddler \ ˈməd-​lər How to pronounce muddler (audio) , ˈmə-​dᵊl-​ər \ noun


muddly \ ˈməd-​lē How to pronounce muddly (audio) , ˈmə-​dᵊl-​ē \ adjective

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Multiple legal battles between members of the Bowlen family and the trust currently running the franchise have muddled the Broncos ownership succession plan. Kyle Fredrickson, The Denver Post, "Brittany Bowlen thriving as Broncos’ VP of strategic innovations, team president Joe Ellis says," 30 Dec. 2019 Those disclosures are interspersed sporadically throughout Elliott’s patient brochures, and often muddled by claims that the test can offer answers to those who have struggled to find them. Isaac Fornarola, USA TODAY, "A single drop of blood: No research or FDA approval behind doctor's testing methods," 22 Dec. 2019 But anything else would probably muddle the top of the conference too much to affect Alabama’s chances. Mike Rodak |, al, "Who does Alabama need to lose this weekend? The fan rooting guide to Week 12," 14 Nov. 2019 This will muddle the picture for economists, who are trying to assess the extent of a recent pullback in hiring. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Jobs and manufacturing: It's a big day for the US economy," 1 Nov. 2019 Neither wanting nor needing a husband, Sheng Nan muddles by as a journalist, ready to throw down and speak her mind at a moment’s notice. Elizabeth Kerr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Send Me to the Clouds' ('Song wo shang qingyun'): Film Review," 30 Sep. 2019 From the start, the Taliban’s own public statements on the attacks that targeted New York and Washington were similarly muddled. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "Even in the midst of Afghan peace talks, the Taliban still deny al Qaeda was behind 9/11," 22 Aug. 2019 Baker refutes his administration has muddled the funds’ purpose., "But the Legislature’s move also underscored the complicated debate that’s engulfed the state’s public transportation, in which many say the state must find more cash for the T’s coffers but there’s no widespread agreement on the best approach.," 13 Dec. 2019 The Cuyahoga County ban goes into effect July 1, though the city of Cleveland could muddle the seamless implementation of the plan. Mary Kilpatrick, cleveland, "Cuyahoga County plastic bag ban: Pinecrest holiday shoppers largely applaud plastic bag ban," 7 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Taken together, the shadowboxing, bank shots and sheer uncertainty of it all reflect what a muddle this race has become. Jonathan Martin, New York Times, "As Candidates Jostle for Position, a Long Race May Become a Marathon," 7 Dec. 2019 Shouldn’t have jumped over the top, should’ve gone up the muddle. Mark Heim |, al, "Watch Jeremy Pruitt unload on Jarrett Guarantano after Alabama’s 100-yard scoop and score," 20 Oct. 2019 In pitcher, muddle 1 cup grapes with sugar and grated ginger. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "Sparkling Ginger Sangria," 1 Aug. 2019 The agencies and allies made things worse by embracing a dysfunctional muddle of programs, according to the interviews. Craig Whitlock, Anchorage Daily News, "Confidential documents reveal U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan," 9 Dec. 2019 America currently pays for health care via an expensive and regressive muddle of employer contributions, premiums, and out-of-pocket spending by patients. Washington Post, "Warren’s $30 Trillion Medicare for All Problem Has a Solution," 18 Oct. 2019 The figures add to indications that Trump’s trade policies are challenging American companies as rising tariffs aimed at China muddle supply chains and add to uncertainty. Washington Post, "U.S. exports, imports declined in September," 28 Oct. 2019 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu has canceled, amid a post-election muddle back home. Richard Roth, CNN, "More than 90 heads of state are descending on New York City. Here's what to watch for," 22 Sep. 2019 Using The Economist as a proxy for liberalism enables Zevin to sidestep much conceptual muddle about the doctrine. Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker, "Liberalism According to The Economist," 4 Nov. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of muddle


1676, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1808, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for muddle

Verb and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for muddle

Time Traveler

The first known use of muddle was in 1676

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Statistics for muddle

Last Updated

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Muddle.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for muddle


How to pronounce muddle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of muddle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to cause confusion in (someone or someone's mind)
: to mix up (something) in a confused way



English Language Learners Definition of muddle (Entry 2 of 2)

: a state of confusion or disorder
: a situation or mistake caused by confusion
: a confused mess : a disordered mixture


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

Kids Definition of muddle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to be or cause to be confused or bewildered “Haven't I so muddled their brains they want to turn you loose?”— Sid Fleischman, The Whipping Boy
2 : to mix up in a confused manner They muddled the story.
3 : to think or proceed in a confused way I somehow muddled through the task.



Kids Definition of muddle (Entry 2 of 2)

: a state of confusion

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More from Merriam-Webster on muddle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for muddle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with muddle

Spanish Central: Translation of muddle

Nglish: Translation of muddle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of muddle for Arabic Speakers

Comments on muddle

What made you want to look up muddle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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