stum·ble | \ˈstəm-bəl \
stumbled; stumbling\ˈstəm-b(ə-)liŋ \

Definition of stumble 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to fall into sin or waywardness

b : to make an error : blunder

c : to come to an obstacle to belief

2 : to trip in walking or running

3a : to walk unsteadily or clumsily

b : to speak or act in a hesitant or faltering manner

4a : to come unexpectedly or by chance stumble onto the truth

b : to fall or move carelessly

transitive verb

1 : to cause to stumble : trip



Definition of stumble (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act or instance of stumbling

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Other Words from stumble


stumbler \ˈstəm-b(ə-)lər \ noun
stumblingly \ˈstəm-b(ə-)liŋ-lē \ adverb

Examples of stumble in a Sentence


I stumbled on the uneven pavement. The horse stumbled and almost fell. He stumbled drunkenly across the room. He stumbled over to the table. I heard him stumble over the unfamiliar words. She stumbled through an apology. The economy has stumbled in recent months.


was his hurtful remark a regrettable stumble, or was it made with artful intention? has bones so brittle that a minor stumble could result in a serious break
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Cattle fencing lines both sides of State Road A1A to keep students from darting — or stumbling — into traffic. Brittany Wallman,, "Fort Lauderdale readies for spring break invasion of college students," 2 Mar. 2018 Frodigh took an early lead over Parziale, going 4 up on the eighth hole after Parziale stumbled with three consecutive bogeys. Mia Berry,, "Defending MassAm champion Matt Parziale falls in quarters," 12 July 2018 Spain stumbled to two draws in group play and Brazil needed a pair of goals in stoppage time to beat Costa Rica, which doesn’t have a point here. Kevin Baxter,, "World Cup: France and Denmark achieve goal without scoring one," 26 June 2018 The deal depleted the depth of the defending WNBA champion, which stumbled to a 3-6 start before reeling off four consecutive victories and climbing to a sixth-place tie in the league standings at 7-6. Percy Allen, The Seattle Times, "Storm’s Natasha Howard proving her point that more minutes equals better stats," 25 June 2018 The Wildcats dropped four of their final five games during Year 5 under Stoops, whose first two teams started strongly before his 2014 and 2015 squads stumbled to 5-7 finishes. Edgar Thompson,, "Kentucky is pushing to move up in tough SEC, No. 69 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 19 June 2018 The Pewaukee speed demon lunged across the finish line in the 400 meters and stumbled to the ground before popping up with some souvenirs from the WIAA Division 1 track and field meet in La Crosse on June 2. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Pewaukee's David Young takes a stumble – but also takes second – in 400 meters at state track and field," 3 June 2018 The Michigan football team stumbled to an 8-5 record in 2017, dropping games to both major rivals and losing the final three games of the season. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football ranked fifth in Athlon's top 25: Why that's too high," 21 May 2018 As the bank stumbles from one crisis to the next, investors blame him for the missteps that have brought the company to one of the most perilous moments in its nearly 150-year history. Jack Ewing, New York Times, "Deutsche Bank’s Problems Threaten a Star Banker," 20 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Could Manafort’s stumble inspire Trump to reconsider his fidelity? Abigail Tracy, The Hive, "The Odds That Robert Mueller Breaks Paul Manafort Just Went Up," 5 June 2018 Members of Adrian Danzig’s professional clown troupe bumble and stumble as waiters at Rita’s café. John Von Rhein,, "Chicago Opera Theater brings flair to comic, serious Donizetti one-acters," 15 Apr. 2018 Of course, a win over rival Atlanta United could me a jump back into the playoff picture, provided Philadelphia and Chicago both stumble in their respective matches. Jordan Culver, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City searching for win to turn around rough season," 26 June 2018 At such an elementary stage, results of those lessons are limited to the practice field, evident only in small increments and mixed with stumbles in Trubisky’s footwork or reads, by the quarterback’s admission. Rich Campbell,, "New Bears OC Mark Helfrich chasing 'perfection' with Mitch Trubisky," 24 May 2018 Many also hold him responsible for the only real stumble in royal popularity in recent decades. NBC News, "British anti-monarchy activists won't be cheering royal wedding," 17 May 2018 But the stumbles never last long, and both always regain their balance in stirring fashion., "Engaged? How bucking tradition can help you save big," 22 Apr. 2018 That the film was shot in this manner won't be particularly noticeable to anyone who wasn't previously aware of it, except for the occasional minor technical stumble. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Fourplay': Film Review," 1 Apr. 2018 Both teams have encountered success and struggles since Florida's 66-64 win Jan. 20, one of only eight Kentucky losses at home in Calipari's nine seasons at the helm and the first SEC stumble since 2014. Fletcher Page, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky basketball 'can do something special' Saturday against the Florida Gators," 1 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stumble.' 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 stumble


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1547, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for stumble


Middle English, probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Norwegian dialect stumle to stumble

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Phrases Related to stumble

stumble across/on/onto/upon

stumble out of bed

Statistics for stumble

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stumble

The first known use of stumble was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for stumble



English Language Learners Definition of stumble

: to hit your foot on something when you are walking or running so that you fall or almost fall

: to walk in an awkward way

: to speak or act in an awkward way


stum·ble | \ˈstəm-bəl \
stumbled; stumbling

Kids Definition of stumble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to trip in walking, running, or dancing

2 : to walk unsteadily She stumbled around in the dark.

3 : to speak or act in a clumsy manner The student stumbled through his presentation.

4 : to come unexpectedly or accidentally We stumbled onto a clue.



Kids Definition of stumble (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act or instance of tripping or walking unsteadily

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Comments on stumble

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


lying above or upon

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