scum·​ble | \ ˈskəm-bəl How to pronounce scumble (audio) \
scumbled; scumbling\ ˈskəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce scumbling (audio) \

Definition of scumble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to make (something, such as color or a painting) less brilliant by covering with a thin coat of opaque or semiopaque color applied with a nearly dry brush
b : to apply (a color) in this manner
2 : to soften the lines or colors of (a drawing) by rubbing lightly



Definition of scumble (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act or effect of scumbling
2 : a material used for scumbling

Did You Know?


The history of "scumble" is blurry, but the word is thought to be related to the verb "scum," an obsolete form of "skim" (meaning "to pass lightly over"). Scumbling, as first perfected by artists such as Titian, involves passing dry, opaque coats of oil paint over a tinted background to create subtle tones and shadows. But although the painting technique dates to the 16th century, use of the word scumble is only known to have begun in the late 18th century. The more generalized "smudge" or "smear" sense appeared even later, in the mid-1800s.

First Known Use of scumble


1798, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1834, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for scumble


perhaps frequentative of scum entry 2

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The first known use of scumble was in 1798

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Cite this Entry

“Scumble.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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