Definition of scrabble in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈskrabəl/


[no object]
1Scratch or grope around with one’s fingers to find, collect, or hold onto something: she scrabbled at the grassy slope, desperate for a firm grip
More example sentences
  • Giles tugged desperately at the manacles, his fingers scrabbling upward against the chain dangling them from the ceiling.
  • The tiny knots of the branch dug into his neck as Merlin sought to find a purchase with his fingers, scrabbling against the oily branch.
  • The boat was tilted almost vertically into the turn, and my fingers scrabbled for purchase in the slippery wood of the deck that I was careening down.
scratch, grope, rummage, root, grub, scavenge, fumble, feel, clamber, scramble
1.1(Of an animal) scratch at something with its claws: a dog was scrabbling at the door
More example sentences
  • There are several false alarms, but eventually his dogs scrabble madly at the base of a tree.
  • Birds and other unseen creatures scrabble about in the windswept bushes of central park, but I would rather not deliberate too much about that.
  • This sunny, summer evening, we are watching small dogs scrabble around on a drab linoleum floor.
1.2 [with adverbial of direction] Scramble or crawl quickly: lizards scrabbling across the walls
More example sentences
  • ‘Remove your hands,’ said Sean in a harsh voice while Sakura quickly scrabbled away and leaned on the wall.
  • Claire quickly scrabbled up the branch, Jarret right behind her.
  • Should he scrabble backwards towards the house?
1.3Make great efforts to get somewhere or achieve something: I had to scrabble around to find this apartment
More example sentences
  • In this context the survivors in the UK electricity market will continue to scrabble for scale.
  • With the tabloids scrabbling for circulation and under pressure to land sensationalist stories, it is not a question of whether that day will arrive, but when.
  • Because it makes us all richer, it enables us to concentrate more on non-material things instead of spending all our time scrabbling for a living.


1 [in singular] An act of scratching or scrambling for something: he heard the scrabble of claws behind him
More example sentences
  • Late one evening I heard a scrabble on the roof.
  • There was a scrabble of paws and claws on stone, punctuated by a few grunts.
  • A scrabble sounded behind them and it seemed as though someone had put a blindfold over their eyes.
1.1A struggle to get somewhere or achieve something: a scrabble among the salesmen to avoid going to the bottom of the heap
More example sentences
  • They have also given rise to a deeply unsavoury scrabble among individuals and groups who want to use this for their own agenda and ends.
  • The company started to scrabble around for money, suing as many customers as it could find for infringement of copyright.
  • There is a scrabble to pull together some funds to keep the arts lobby happy, he adds.
2 (Scrabble) trademark A board game in which players use lettered tiles to create words in a crossword fashion.
Example sentences
  • So, we were playing obscene Scrabble with double points for swear words and cocktail names.
  • I, on the other hand, will be feeding my face and cleaning the kitchen before heading back up here to play Scrabble.
  • Several more rounds of speed Scrabble followed with a growing band of enthusiasts.



Example sentences
  • Unfortunately, grown-up ‘scrabblers’ will have to stay home with their dictionaries and boards, since this competition is open to only students.
  • He beat three other scrabblers to settle for 35th position after five wins and a -330 spread.
  • The association is also appealing to well-wishers to contribute towards the tournament, which is expected to be attended by scrabblers from 6 countries.


Mid 16th century (in the sense 'make marks at random, scrawl'): from Middle Dutch schrabbelen, frequentative of schrabben 'to scrape'. The noun sense 'struggle to achieve something' is originally a North American usage dating from the late 18th century.

  • In the game Scrabble players build up words from small lettered squares or tiles. The name was registered as a trademark in January 1950, but the word scrabble dates from the mid 16th century, and came from early Dutch schrabben ‘to scrape’. The original meaning was ‘to scrawl or scribble’, followed by ‘to scratch or grope about’ in the late 16th century.

Words that rhyme with scrabble

babble, bedabble, dabble, drabble, gabble, grabble, rabble

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: scrab·ble

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