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

Synonyms & Antonyms for stumble

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of stumble in a Sentence

Verb 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. Noun 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 The majority of his views don’t come from new clips, but from people who stumble on older footage that the site’s algorithm has recommended. Mark Bergen,, "The North Carolina Kid Who Cracked YouTube’s Secret Code," 22 Dec. 2020 It’s never out of the question that one of the division favorites heading into a season will stumble. David Moore, Dallas News, "NFC East turned upside down: Thought to be division’s marquee matchup, Cowboys-Eagles may be meaningless," 21 Dec. 2020 In this paradigm, innovative firms that use technology to offer better solutions to more users can enjoy remarkable growth, while firms that are unable to do so often stumble. Valla Vakili, Quartz at Work, "The next decade of growth will come from solving societal problems," 15 Dec. 2020 Even so, health experts do worry that patients might stumble into loopholes that leave them vulnerable to surprise bills. New York Times, "Answers to Your Questions About the New Covid Vaccines in the U.S.," 14 Dec. 2020 Elaine, my colleague’s mom, a 60-plus year-old woman, beaten and robbed, her eye already swelling shut, had to pull herself up from the ground and stumble into the store for help. Kate Mortenson, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis momentum is being crushed by the crime wave," 25 Nov. 2020 Larger birds might survive the immediate impacts of their injuries, and fly away or stumble into brush. National Geographic, "Invisible menace: Methane flares scorching birds at U.S. landfills," 20 Nov. 2020 Republican lawmakers stumble on with their claims that the presidential election was a sham, to the point of sedition. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, "Essential California: Just leave already, 2020, and let 2021 be," 4 Jan. 2021 Most poachers target antelopes, buffalo, or warthogs for meat, but elephants, giraffes, and other animals also stumble into the traps. Animals, "These traps once snared Uganda's wildlife. Now they're art," 12 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His kicks hit, his punches make the opponent stumble, and just like that, against all neurological science, Miguel’s eyes open and he’s fully healed. Brian Moylan, Vulture, "Cobra Kai Season-Premiere Recap: All-Out Karate Riot," 1 Jan. 2021 G2′s freewheeling approach — and absence of a clear, commanding leader — lost them a winnable first game, a precarious stumble in a best-of-three format. Washington Post, "G2 were the kings of ‘Valorant’ in Europe. What happened?," 28 Dec. 2020 As 2020 draws to a close, HBO Max's 2020 stumble into the streaming-video fray has begun smoothing out, and the subscription service will soon seal its biggest North American gap: a spot on the Roku marketplace. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "HBO Max patches its Roku hole six months after launch," 16 Dec. 2020 Gordon kept his balance long enough for a seven-yard scoring stumble with 8:38 left in the second quarter to extend Trinity’s lead to 28-7. Dallas News, "‘Payback was on our minds’: Euless Trinity avenges last two losses against Haltom with dominant 56-10 win," 27 Nov. 2020 Their only stumble came during the season opener in a 102-90 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga, which remains undefeated thanks to its historic offense and luxuriously deep bench. Nick Moyle,, "Road matchup with No. 3 Kansas a measuring stick game for No. 8 Texas," 1 Jan. 2021 Despite the stumble, China’s domestic exchanges are well-positioned for the future. Henry M. Paulson Jr., WSJ, "China Wants to Be the World’s Banker," 9 Dec. 2020 But the stewards could not determine the cause of the stumble and left the results. John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times, "Horse racing newsletter: Aaron Gryder set to hang it up," 16 Nov. 2020 Daniel Jones shook off a stumble that prevented him from an 88-yard touchdown run and had the Giants leading 21-10 following a 2-yard pass to Sterling Shepard with 6:21 left. oregonlive, "Philadelphia Eagles rally to edge the New York Giants: Recap, score, stats and more," 23 Oct. 2020

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

Time Traveler for stumble

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for stumble

Last Updated

18 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Stumble.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for stumble


How to pronounce stumble (audio)

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

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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