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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The lack of clear data muddles the public's understanding of COVID-19's prevalence in the community and hinders people's ability to make informed decisions as businesses begin reopening. Rachel Leingang, azcentral, "Arizona's daily reported COVID-19 deaths have skyrocketed. But many are from weeks prior," 8 May 2020 Many factors muddled the administration’s early response to the coronavirus as officials debated the severity of the threat, including comments from Mr. Trump that minimized the risk. Stephanie Armour, WSJ, "Health Chief’s Early Missteps Set Back Coronavirus Response," 22 Apr. 2020 Biden, 77, muddled the name of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, which spread across the world in 2009. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Which health crisis? Biden and Sanders muddle coronavirus, H1N1, Ebola," 15 Mar. 2020 Policy uncertainty has muddled supply chains and contributed to delayed long-term investments in people and capital. Reade Pickert,, "U.S. economy cools as consumer spending misses forecasts," 27 Sep. 2019 Try her best garden aperitif: a fizzy Prosecco spritzer muddled with fresh mint and garnished with in-bloom nasturtium petals and peach slices. Kaitlyn Yarborough, Southern Living, "Designer Lauren Liess Hosts a Homegrown Supper at Home," 25 Apr. 2020 The plot gets muddled with so many intertwining story threads, but Moura is magnetic as a fascinating humanitarian completely devoted to helping people, sometimes to his own sacrifice. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "What to stream this weekend: Amazon's teen dream 'Selah and the Spades,' Netflix's 'Sergio' and more," 17 Apr. 2020 At a congressional hearing on Thursday, Robert Redfield, the CDC's director, further muddled the administration's message about paying for services related to the new virus. Amy Goldstein, Anchorage Daily News, "What your health plan will cover if you get coronavirus," 12 Mar. 2020 JoJu’s take on soda chanh muoi, fizzy lemonade muddled with lemons and limes left to brine for more than four months. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, "Banh Mi That Travels the World at JoJu," 13 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But with the rise of fast-moving trains, the muddle of differing times became a nuisance. Quanta Magazine, "Arrows of Time," 5 May 2020 Longtime establishment favorite Biden, a two-term vice president, desperately needed to breathe new life into his flailing campaign, which entered the night at the bottom of a moderate muddle behind Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Steve Peoples, Fortune, "Bloomberg and Sanders hit with fierce attacks during Democrats’ Nevada debate," 19 Feb. 2020 Bloomberg's rise and the muddle among centrist Democrats is a product of one thing: Biden's struggles. NBC News, "Meet the Press - February 16, 2020," 16 Feb. 2020 That there are two, extremely polarized sides is also the one clear takeaway from the Iowa muddle. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, "The State of the Democrats," 6 Feb. 2020 Instead of explaining the President’s confused remarks, Pence echoed them, adding to the muddle. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "Mike Pence and the Farce of Trusting Donald Trump on the Coronavirus," 13 Mar. 2020 Before diving into the recent muddle, a little background. Christine Peterson, Outdoor Life, "Lawyers, Trout, and Money—The Crazy Story Behind the Water Access Battle in New Mexico," 13 Mar. 2020 How will this muddle of competing interests and scarce tax dollars play out? Greg Jefferson,, "Jefferson: Growth, growing pains in San Antonio forecast," 17 Jan. 2020 Democrats' incumbent opponent need merely step back and enjoy a muddle that could yet become a fight to the death. Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, "'It's chaos, baby': Trump campaign claims win in Super Tuesday results," 5 Mar. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about muddle

Time Traveler for muddle

Time Traveler

The first known use of muddle was in 1676

See more words from the same year

Statistics for muddle

Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Muddle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!