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


a car shopper thoroughly muddled by too much well-meaning advice some mischievous brat had muddled the household accounts


His papers were in a muddle. His mind was a muddle.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

There is talent in this draft beyond the top three picks, but it is muddled by its context: stylistic complications, unfortunate injuries, roster redundancies, and scheduling quirks. Rob Mahoney,, "Trade Grades: An Extension of the AD Deal, Pelicans-Hawks Swap Shapes Two Futures," 21 June 2019 And far from increasing legibility, the turn toward the transparent has only further muddled everything up. Sam Schube, GQ, "Magazine," 16 June 2018 Add 4 or 5 hearty sprigs of mint, stir, and gently muddle for another 30 seconds. Al Culliton, Bon Appétit, "A Pimm's Cup Recipe to Start Summer Off Right," 6 June 2019 The sounds of a coastal breeze and the distant murmur of beachgoers are muddled by the hum of soft jazz music and the traffic along Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, steps from where Viola sits at a square table in an upscale restaurant. Matthew Defranks,, "Now a South Florida resident, Panthers owner Vinnie Viola hopes to remedy past errors, prepare for future," 18 June 2018 The tailwinds retailers enjoyed last year from tax cuts and brisk consumer demand will dissipate in 2019, and looming Chinese tariffs could muddle the outlook further. Matthew Boyle, The Seattle Times, "Amazon has a big advertising business. Walmart wants one too," 19 Feb. 2019 And while Wall Street estimates suggest most big banks will announce solid results, growth will be muddled because year-ago results were hit by big special charges many banks took related to the tax-law changes. Michael Rapoport, WSJ, "Tax Cut Helped Banks’ Earnings Growth—But Not for Much Longer," 13 Jan. 2019 Even attempting a sure-to-fail vote carries risks for Senate Republicans, because a few Democrats up for re-election in states won by President Donald Trump could muddle the GOP’s campaign message against them by voting for middle-class tax cuts. Richard Rubin, WSJ, "House GOP Push to Extend Tax Cuts Meets Resistance in Senate," 19 July 2018 Use a muddler to break sugar cube, then muddle until sugar is almost all dissolved. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "Thinking Cap Cocktail," 17 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Mile Kitchen celebrates Independence Day with The Acai, made with acai juice, light agave nectar, lemon juice, club soda, topped with a spoonful of blackberry-acai juice muddle, and garnished with a lemon wheel and mint sprig. San Diego Union-Tribune, "The Dish: 34 places you can eat, drink and hang out this Independence Day," 27 June 2019 Photo: Daniel Schaefer Spa Water Created by Margo Tyler of Jar In a shaker, muddle 3 slices Persian cucumber. Aleksandra Crapanzano, WSJ, "In Praise of the Morning Cocktail," 25 June 2019 The first big opportunity for candidates to break out of that muddle comes with the two nights of debates this week beginning Wednesday. Hannah Fingerhut, The Denver Post, "Democratic voters not fully tuned in to 2020, AP-NORC Poll finds," 24 June 2019 The first big opportunity for candidates to break out of that muddle comes with the two nights of debates this week beginning Wednesday. Jaclyn Gallucci, Fortune, "Are Too Many Democrats Running for President? Voters Are Tuning Out," 24 June 2019 The votes by legislators — one signaling a major step forward in Ukraine’s on-again off-again struggle against corruption, the other a serious setback — added to a growing sense of muddle in Kiev. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, "Ukraine Approves Anticorruption Court in Bid to Unblock Foreign Aid," 7 June 2018 The team sergeant wandered the courtyard aimlessly, his thoughts and words a muddle. Michael M. Phillips, WSJ, "‘I Think I’ve Been Shot’: Nighttime Raid in Afghanistan Reveals New U.S. Strategy," 5 Dec. 2018 This 150-calorie sip from REDBOK's Mommy Mixologist, Kim Haasarud: In a cocktail shaker, muddle 2 strawberries, 1 oz lime juice, and 1 oz sugar-free syrup, such as Monin Sugar Free Triple Sec Syrup. Redbook, "The Best Low-Cal Margaritas," 11 Aug. 2011 Combine wood sorrel leaves and stems with lime juice in a cocktail shaker; muddle. Kate Richards, Country Living, "Clover Whiskey Sour," 15 Mar. 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.

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

Statistics for muddle

Last Updated

4 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for muddle

The first known use of muddle was in 1676

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for muddle



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with muddle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


a small bunch of flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!