stum·​ble | \ ˈstəm-bəl How to pronounce stumble (audio) \
stumbled; stumbling\ ˈstəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce stumbling (audio) \

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 How to pronounce stumbler (audio) \ noun
stumblingly \ ˈstəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ-​lē How to pronounce stumblingly (audio) \ 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

Oh, and let the record show that the film’s climax, a court scene in which Jones’s character initially stumbles during her statement only to recover late and win over the judges during her rebuttal? Alessandra Codinha, Vogue, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Draws a Sold-Out Crowd to a New York City Screening of On the Basis of Sex," 17 Dec. 2018 There are two simple, measurable ways that Facebook could have been punished for all of its stumbles these past 18 months: Advertisers could have taken their business elsewhere, hurting Facebook’s bottom line. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "Facebook is succeeding in spite of itself," 24 July 2018 Much to the college football world’s surprise, Oklahoma State stumbled before Bedlam, losing in double overtime at Iowa State. Will Mccollister,, "On the Outside Looking In: The Best Teams to Finish No. 3 in the BCS Era," 11 July 2018 Most were white, stumbling over the syllables of Spanish-language chants. Marissa J. Lang,, "Hundreds of women in D.C. protest ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy," 28 June 2018 Gottehrer eventually left to follow a different career path, but Stein stayed on, signing bands from the U.K. and Europe like Focus, the Climax Blues Band and Renaissance, before stumbling onto the downtown New York punk scene of the 1970s. Ed Christman, Billboard, "Seymour Stein On His New Autobiography & Why the Music Industry Should Pay More Tribute to Its Past," 13 June 2018 According to the trailer, the movie will center around a group of friends who stumble upon a creepy book belonging to a mysterious girl named Sarah. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Watch the First Trailer for "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark"," 30 Mar. 2019 The tweet also cuts Hevesh’s intro, which acts as a welcome to her channel for those who stumble upon the video. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "YouTube faces backlash on Twitter over lifted, uncredited holiday video," 26 Dec. 2018 Her Supergirl has a secret identity as mild-mannered reporter Clara Keene, who stumbles around the office, suffers a horrible sinus condition and swoons over a fellow reporter. Tom Keogh, The Seattle Times, "Carol Burnett comes to Seattle to banter, answer questions — and possibly do the Tarzan yell," 9 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Apple has had no breakthrough on TV, a modest success with its watch, a stumble in music and a lot of speculation concerning its intentions for autonomous cars or creating original programming. John D. Stoll, WSJ, "Polaroid. Walkman. Palm Pilot. iPhone?," 11 Jan. 2019 Yet expected growth, unless Beijing steps back and new competitors stumble, is clearly slower. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "Tough Days for China’s Tech Giants," 7 Sep. 2018 But two weeks after Solari guided Madrid to the Club World Cup title, the club is back in trouble after consecutive stumbles left it far behind in the Spanish league title race. Joseph Wilson, The Seattle Times, "Real Madrid back in trouble as Solari effect loses luster," 6 Jan. 2019 Xiaomi’s high-profile stumble may have a chilling effect on a swathe of Chinese tech corporations keen on raising capital this year to fuel their ambitions, from Meituan Dianping in Hong Kong to Tencent Music in the U.S. Ian Mount, Fortune, "Chinese Smartphone Maker Xiaomi’s Monster IPO Flops on Its First Day of Trading," 9 July 2018 Starting pitchers Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb are living up to their billing as former first-round picks after previous stumbles, solidifying a rotation that has shaved more than a run off last season’s 4.80 ERA. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, "'Future is now' for Braves thanks to historic young duo of Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña Jr.," 23 May 2018 For all of Tillerson’s bureaucratic stumbles, some of the president’s most bitter adversaries credited the ex-oilman with acting as an adult and serving with dignity even as Trump publicly humiliated him. Washington Post, "Pick for top diplomat seen as tight with the president," 14 Mar. 2018 But a string of recent foreign-policy stumbles by the European Union are stirring deep concern in European capitals about the region’s capacity to be a player in a new, more volatile and dangerous world order. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "In a Volatile World, Europe Struggles to Find Its Voice," 18 Feb. 2019 That run of form has coincided with a simultaneous stumble by Western Conference contenders to suddenly leave that first-round bye up-for-grabs. Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times, "Forget the playoffs, Sounders now have a shot at a first-round bye," 14 Aug. 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

3 Jun 2019

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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 How to pronounce stumble (audio) \
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).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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