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

Hansjoerg Bacher, a spokesman for Graz prosecutors, said prosecutors had stumbled across the donation as part of an existing probe against Sellner into possible financial offenses. Frank Jordans, The Seattle Times, "Austrian far-right activist probed over ties to NZ suspect," 26 Mar. 2019 Google was briefly afflicted in 2015 when an Indian provider stumbled. Frank Bajak, The Seattle Times, "Nigerian ISP’s configuration error disrupted Google services," 14 Nov. 2018 One of her brothers stumbled on a line and Eva insisted she be allowed to say the pledge again herself. David Sharos, Aurora Beacon-News, "Aurora ice cream shop gives kids tasty reason to say Pledge of Allegiance," 3 July 2018 The amateur photographer discovered a time capsule of late ’60s and early ’70s rock history Last spring, former music executive Michael Friedman’s wife stumbled on something amazing. Gwynedd Stuart, Los Angeles Magazine, "A Former Music Exec Just Found Hidden in His Attic 1,000 Never-Before-Seen Photos of Rock Legends," 11 Apr. 2018 Joe sensed my boyfriend’s animosity and, unprepared for the competition, stumbled over his words. Crystal Ponti, Harper's BAZAAR, "What It's Actually Like To Be Stalked by Joe," 12 Feb. 2019 Some stumbled upon the craft in new-age shops, others were born into brujeria, but one thing rings true for them all: Being a witch is all about reclaiming power. Glamour, "6 Witches on Their Favorite Mystical Beauty Products," 31 Oct. 2018 Many of them had passed through backpacking and stumbled upon the tiny island by chance—or luck. Monica Mendal, Vogue, "A Designer’s Guide to Lamu Island, Kenya’s Hidden Paradise," 4 Feb. 2019 While physicists are hard at work hunting magnetic monopoles, decades-old findings suggest we may already have stumbled upon them. Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine, "Scientists Hunt for A Seeming Paradox: A Magnet With Only One Pole," 13 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Snap, Inc’s flagship Snapchat social media platform has rolled out a photo filter that highlights the recent stumbles of its biggest rival — Facebook. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "Snapchat’s April Fools' Gag Pokes Fun at Facebook's Russian Bot Problem," 1 Apr. 2018 Because technology stocks until recently had been on such a tear, their recent stumbles are all the more painful for the broader markets. Matt Phillips, New York Times, "Technology Companies Drag Stock Markets Down Again," 27 Mar. 2018 China’s economic stumbles are reverberating more strongly across global supply chains. Erica E. Phillips, WSJ, "Today’s Logistics Report: China Bites Apple; Cargo Lost at Sea; Leasing into Freighters," 4 Jan. 2019

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

8 Apr 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).


marked by a state of overwhelming emotion

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