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

Austin Meadows got a one-out double down the left field line when Jake Bauers stumbled and fell on the bullpen mound while fielding the ball. Mark Didtler,, "Indians pitcher Carrasco returns from leukemia but Rays sweep weekend to take over No. 1 wild-card spot," 1 Sep. 2019 On a Sunday afternoon in September 2014, Boylan stumbled out of a taxicab onto the sidewalk in front of the emergency room at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. David Armstrong, ProPublica, "In Men, It’s Parkinson’s. In Women, It’s Hysteria.," 23 Aug. 2019 Rider Wolf remembers stumbling upon one of the outfit’s early performances., "Billy Rancher and the Unreal Gods, ‘kings of downtown Portland,’ streaked toward 1980s rock stardom -- until tragedy struck," 8 Aug. 2019 What libertarianism might mean going forward will depend a lot on how the president’s declared opponents, like Amash, distinguish it from Trumpism—especially when Trumpism occasionally stumbles into a shallow imitation of a libertarian position. Lucy Steigerwald, The New Republic, "Justin Amash and the Libertarian Future," 29 July 2019 Performances can include jazz, ragtime, folk, classical or — as happened when a group of visiting Fulbright scholars stumbled in — the Ukrainian national song. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, "Their music was ready to spill out. All they needed was a piano.," 27 July 2019 New England started the season by stumbling to a 2-8-2 record, but Friedel’s firing and the May 14 hiring of Arena has lifted the club above the playoff cutoff line. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City faces resurgent New England Revolution during critical road matchup," 27 July 2019 It centers on an overeducated truck driver who picks up two bags of cash after stumbling upon a hold-up that goes wrong. Detroit Free Press, "New movies: 'Stuber,' 'Crawl,' 'Fall of the American Empire'," 11 July 2019 After stumbling upon a naked man masturbating in a public park bathroom, a West Allis police officer had to deploy his taser and peppery spray in order to take him into custody. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A West Allis police officer caught a naked man in a sexual act inside a McCarty Park bathroom, complaint says," 9 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 There were no major stumbles but few standout moments as 10 candidates vied for the nation’s attention. Juana Summers And Nicholas Riccardi,, "Takeaways from the first Democratic presidential debate," 27 June 2019 Still, the early stumble was almost enough to cost the Patriots' home-field advantage in the playoffs. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "New England Patriots' 2018 NFL schedule: No shortage of tests for Tom Brady and Co.," 19 Apr. 2018 Despite his stumbles since 2018, O’Rourke has retained his grass-roots vibe and constant schedule. Jazmine Ulloa,, "How is Beto O’Rourke hoping to revive his campaign? By getting back to his roots," 19 July 2019 Six months after Netflix raised prices on its US streaming plans, the 22-year-old company reported its worst subscriber stumble in a decade. Sangeeta Singh-kurtz, Quartzy, "Netflix isn’t sweating the loss of “Friends” and “The Office,” it swears," 18 July 2019 Tsai would welcome that boost after signs that Chinese pressure and policy stumbles by her administration were cutting into her support. Washington Post, "Hong Kong protests may give Taiwan’s leader a boost vs China," 2 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.

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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

9 Sep 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

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readily or continually undergoing change

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