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

Synonyms & Antonyms for stumble

Synonyms: Verb

fall, slip, topple, trip, tumble

Synonyms: Noun

blunder, bobble, boo-boo, boob [British], brick, clanger [British], clinker, error, fault, flub, fluff, fumble, gaff, gaffe, goof, inaccuracy, lapse, miscue, misstep, mistake, oversight, screwup, slip, slipup, trip

Antonyms: Verb

get up, rise, stand (up), uprise

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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

After she was attacked around 8 p.m. in the Logan Circle neighborhood, the woman, 35-year-old Wendy K. Martinez, stumbled into a takeout restaurant, where customers attempted to save her life, police said. Katherine Lam, Fox News, "Jogger stabbed to death in Washington, DC, collapses in takeout restaurant as attacker flees, cops say," 19 Sep. 2018 One can be forgiven for thinking that the first modern humans who ventured out of Africa stumbled into a vibrant bar scene. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "DNA shows girl had one Neanderthal, one Denisovan parent," 22 Aug. 2018 As Augustus moved around the front of a police vehicle, stumbling into the street, his hand moved toward his waist. German Lopez, Vox, "The latest protests against the Chicago police are about more than one shooting," 20 July 2018 Sailors, many of them already desperately ill, stumbled down the gangplank and into the dockyards of Messina. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Joanna of Naples," 3 July 2018 But the matchup to really watch may be Argentina against France, a clash of two giants who stumbled into the knockout stage and play one another on Saturday. Dan Adler, Vanities, "The World Cup Is Halfway Over, Here’s What Comes Next," 29 June 2018 In Enemy of the State, Will Smith plays a lawyer who stumbles into a government operation and is tracked by the NSA. Caryn James, The Hollywood Reporter, "Critic's Notebook: The Prescient Political Films of 1998," 27 June 2018 Description: Sandra Oh plays a bored MI5 desk jockey who stumbles into investigating a brilliant, soulless assassin (Jodie Comer). Trenesha N Striggles, azcentral, "Here's the shows you should binge-watch while it's hot outside," 27 June 2018 Is this a different underground lab than the one Bernard and Elsie stumbled into a few episodes back? William Lee,, "‘Westworld’ Episode 10 recap: 5 things to know about ‘The Passenger’ and Season 2's finale," 24 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Whether Sears can actually survive this latest stumble remains to be seen. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "Sears has filed for bankruptcy, but that doesn’t mean it’s shutting down," 15 Oct. 2018 Every stumble out of a nightclub or wardrobe malfunction became front-page news. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Lady Gaga's 2009 MTV Video Music Awards Performance Was a Warning Pop Culture Needed," 17 Aug. 2018 Katy Perry, at least, looks first visibly alarmed -- then just bored -- throughout the night, as these once-promising hopefuls stumble left and right. Robbie Daw, Billboard, "'American Idol' Top 14 Give Lackluster Performances: Critic's Take," 23 Apr. 2018 Some contend the market’s 2018 stumbles aren’t all bad. Michael Wursthorn, WSJ, "No Refuge for Investors as 2018 Rout Sends Stocks, Bonds, Oil Lower," 25 Nov. 2018 But even Democrats are doubtful of Cruz making any stumbles that would cause voters to peel off. Paul J. Weber, The Seattle Times, "Cruz, O’Rourke debate may be last chance for big moment," 15 Oct. 2018 There are two simple ways the company could have been punished for all of its recent stumbles: Advertisers could have taken their business elsewhere, or users could have left the social network. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Facebook is succeeding in spite of itself," 25 July 2018 His stumbles in the 1984 Finals against Boston were every bit as severe as James's in 2011 against Dallas. Lee Jenkins,, "Fit For The King: LeBron James and the Lakers Form Hollywood's Ultimate Marriage," 11 July 2018 There was his stumble around third base later that inning. Nick Piecoro, azcentral, "Diamondbacks lose Jarrod Dyson, drop series vs. Cardinals," 5 July 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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Statistics for stumble

Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on stumble

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stumble

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stumble

Spanish Central: Translation of stumble

Nglish: Translation of stumble for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stumble for Arabic Speakers

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).


a nest or breeding place

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