Definition of scrabble in English:


Syllabification: scrab·ble
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.


Back to top  
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.
More 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.


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.



More 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.

Definition of scrabble in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day deictic
Pronunciation: ˈdeɪktɪk
denoting a word whose meaning depends on context...