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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Netanyahu became the first elected prime minister in Israeli history to stumble in forging a working government. NBC News, "Polls close in Israel's razor-tight election as Netanyahu seeks to hold on to power," 17 Sep. 2019 Daniels threw a 40-yard pass to Aiyuk, who ran a double-move to the outside that got MSU cornerback Josh Butler to stumble just enough to give the receiver separation and an easy catch. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Explaining how Michigan State, Mark Dantonio cracked in loss to Arizona State," 15 Sep. 2019 Later in the match, Miller appeared to stumble out of the box while holding the ball. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City battle for a 2-2 home draw against LAFC," 8 Sep. 2019 But that is a strategy that requires one or more of the frontrunners to stumble. A.r. | Chicago, The Economist, "Why Pete Buttigieg is losing momentum," 4 Sep. 2019 In 2019, Austyn Tester seems to have stumbled a bit in his fame attempt. Martha Sorren,, "In 2019, Jawline's Austyn Tester Is Still Trying To Find His Following," 24 Aug. 2019 Once Euphoria is in its groove, neither of these stories feel particularly salacious or shocking — they just unspool as personal, specific stories about a bunch of teenagers trying their best to stumble through their circumstances unscathed. Constance Grady, Vox, "Why Euphoria’s messy season finale could mean great things for the show’s future," 11 Aug. 2019 The specter of Mark Richt is lurking in the sunken shadows of Sanford Stadium, and nothing could be more frightening for a program that continues to stumble every season at the doorstep of greatness. Joseph Goodman |,, "Georgia the smart pick to win championship if Kirby Smart can overcome ghosts," 16 July 2019 So, as Alison Leigh Cowan reports for the New York Times, historians were excited to stumble upon a diary, belonging to Sampson’s neighbor, that promises to shed new insight into her wartime escapades. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Diary Sheds Light on Deborah Sampson, Who Fought in the Revolutionary War," 2 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And yet its stumble in a 26-14 loss to Auburn didn’t end up mattering. George Schroeder, USA TODAY, "Can anyone beat Clemson? It's unlikely as the ACC continues to scuffle this season," 15 Sep. 2019 The company has yet to turn a profit, and has faced mounting losses since its IPO (before yesterday’s stumble, shares were down 36% from its debut). Sangeeta Singh-kurtz, Quartzy, "Farfetch’s streetwear push may be too far-fetched for investors," 9 Aug. 2019 Even more than Biden’s perhaps predictable stumbles, however, the Republicans were focussed on the leftward tilt of the Democratic-policy proposals that was evident in both nights’ debates. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "Kamala Harris Won in Miami, but Vladimir Putin Won in Osaka," 28 June 2019 Though his grades improved the past two years, those early stumbles affected his GPA, and his ability to get into more selective schools and receive scholarships. Rachel Leingang, azcentral, "For undocumented Arizona high school grad, Yale is more affordable than ASU," 11 June 2019 After an unlikely stumble, Naomi Osaka regained her confidence and won the Australian Open on Saturday—a performance that will make fans eager for her next Grand Slam stop: the French Open in Paris. Tom Perrotta, WSJ, "Japan’s Naomi Osaka Wins Australian Open, Her Second Straight Grand Slam," 26 Jan. 2019 Harteveldt said American's stumble in on-time performance makes it a liability to travel planners. Dallas News, "Canceled flights, wrecked vacations and leaky planes: Passenger frustrations rise as American Airlines struggles," 23 Aug. 2019 Pessimists worry that the knock-on effect from this capital-spending stumble could be far-reaching and more painful than the likes of Goldman expect. The Economist, "The trade war is leading some firms to crimp investment," 15 Aug. 2019 The stumbles began in late January, when host Jake Tapper asked Harris at a CNN town hall about getting rid of private insurance. Tal Kopan,, "Kamala Harris unveils Medicare for All plan ahead of Democratic debate," 29 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about stumble

Statistics for stumble

Last Updated

7 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stumble

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 bell tower

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!