Definition of scrabble in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈskrab(ə)l/


[no object]
1Scratch or grope around with one’s fingers to find, collect, or hold on to something: she scrabbled at the grassy slope, desperate for purchase
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, pole, grub, scavenge, fumble, feel, clamber, scramble
New Zealand informal poozle
archaic grabble
1.1(Of an animal) scratch at something with its claws: a lonely 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 [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.
2 (Scrabble) [mass noun] trademark A game in which players build up words on a board from small lettered squares or tiles.
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.

  • 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

Line breaks: scrab¦ble

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