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


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Maultsby’s communications were muddled by the distance as Soviet radio operators tried to fool him into heading deeper into enemy territory. Alex Hollings, Popular Mechanics, "Why the U-2 Is Such a Badass Plane," 4 Sep. 2019 Castle Hills’ woes are further muddled by a controversy over Gonzalez’s oath of office, administered by Sheriff Javier Salazar, who is not authorized under state law to do so. Scott Huddleston,, "Residents of San Antonio suburb sue to remove council members who were arrested," 7 Aug. 2019 The proposal offers new clarity on the role of private insurers, which Harris had been muddled about in the past. Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times, "Kamala Harris’ ‘Medicare for all’ plan includes a role for private health insurance," 29 July 2019 Think of two beloved smells of summer: the scent of the ocean air, muddled with sunscreen and sunshine, and the crisp, fresh aroma of a brand new book. Lindsay Tigar, CNN Underscored, "These Amazon best-selling books are the ultimate beach reads," 25 July 2019 But to assume the meaning of their myths is inevitably to muddle the truth of the Catholic tradition. Declan Leary, National Review, "The Problem with Trying to Make Catholicism Relatable in the Amazon," 25 June 2019 Yet Bruce must muddle together a competitive team, and has just over a week to do so before Newcastle's campaign starts at home to Arsenal., "Picking the Newcastle XI That Should Start Against Arsenal in August Premier League Opener," 3 Aug. 2019 But the barrage of attacks was not easily withstood, and Biden was at times muddled in his responses. Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times, "Biden and Harris play defense: Five takeaways from Night 2 of the Democratic debate," 31 July 2019 Both Durant and Thompson are free agents coming up this summer, but could both miss significant portions of next season recovering from their ailments, muddling the plans of both Golden State and the teams that planned on pursuing Durant. Time, "Canada Clinches Its First NBA Title as Toronto Raptors Defeat the Golden State Warriors," 14 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Place the jalapeño and cilantro in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle until the jalapeño is mashed into small pieces and the cilantro crushed and fragrant., "Recipe: El Picador cocktail," 21 Aug. 2019 Nearly massless neutrinos muddle a mathematical symmetry in the standard model, Parke explains. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Resurrected detector will hunt for some of the strangest particles in the universe," 8 Aug. 2019 The staging seemed a bit disorganized in the early going, though splashy video helped distract from the choreographic muddles. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Hugh Jackman sings, dances and charms, delivering a grand time at the Hollywood Bowl," 21 July 2019 Bannon was overwhelmed and embarrassed by her financial muddle — but her biggest stumbling block? Susan Moeller,, "The 7 stupidest things we do with money," 13 June 2019 The apparently hedonistic culture that emerged before World War I was a muddle of flagrant gestures toward personal liberation and subtle new forms of social coercion. The New York Review of Books, "Jackson Lears," 7 Feb. 2019 Don’t overlook Bilavarn’s papaya salad, a crisp, fragrant muddle underscored with the pungency of shrimp paste and fish sauce. Patricia Escárcega,, "Patricia Escárcega’s five favorite restaurants that she reviewed this year (so far)," 3 July 2019 Repetitive rhythms of tension muddle shocking scares into crowd-pleasing familiarity. Darren Franich,, "Annabelle Comes Home pushes the Conjuring universe toward absurdity: EW review," 24 June 2019 Thursday's ruling adds to the muddle of past Supreme Court decisions on the acceptability of public displays or expressions of religious faith. Pete Williams, NBC News, "Supreme Court rules giant cross to veterans on public land is not gov't endorsement of religion," 20 June 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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Statistics for muddle

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for muddle

The first known use of muddle was in 1676

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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

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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).


to make a temporary encampment

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