Definition of fumble in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈfəmbəl/


[no object]
1Use the hands clumsily while doing or handling something: she fumbled with the lock
More example sentences
  • He reached his door and pulled out his key and fumbled with the lock.
  • ‘I should have put more planning into my plan’ said Mauritania as Jess tried fumbled with keys in the infinite number of locks on the door.
  • Sharai grinned upon seeing me run out the door before, absentminded as I am; I ran back and fumbled with my keys to lock the door.
grope, fish, search blindly, scrabble around
1.1 (fumble around/about) Move clumsily in various directions using the hands to find one’s way: Greg fumbled around in the closet and found his black jacket
More example sentences
  • Clumsily fumbling around in his personal possessions with fingers which had fallen half-asleep, the emissary produced a neatly rolled-up paper and handed it over to the scaly hand before him.
  • Clumsily, he fumbled around for tissues, but couldn't find any.
  • She clumsily opened her book and fumbled around for her pen.
stumble, blunder, flounder, lumber, stagger, totter, lurch;
(fumble about/around) feel one's way, grope one's way
1.2 [with object] Use the hands clumsily to move (something) as specified: she fumbled a cigarette from her bag
More example sentences
  • The street light gag, fumbling the cigarettes?
  • After returning from the airport, having said goodbye, I sat on the verandah and looked out at the night, fumbling a cigarette, its fire the only bright spot.
  • ‘Whatever,’ he mumbled, fumbling his pockets for his keys.
1.3 [with object] American Football Drop or lose control of (the ball), sometimes causing a turnover: he seldom fumbled a ball
More example sentences
  • Both sides displayed a lot of nerves in the opening half during which there was a lot of mishandling, balls dropped or fumbled and scoring opportunities squandered.
  • Granted a lot of ball was fumbled and dropped but at least the ball was at the right end of the pitch.
  • Woewodin has attracted his critics for sometimes losing his feet and fumbling the ball out in the open while being descended upon.
1.4 [with object] (In other ball games) fail to catch or field (the ball, a pass, a shot, etc.) cleanly.
Example sentences
  • The Crigglestone fullback fumbled the ball allowing Neil Kennedy and Ian Barnes to get their hands on the ball at the same time just before the ball went dead.
  • Cody was much less productive, fumbling the ball at crucial times and finding his way into coach Dave McGinnis' doghouse.
  • Instead, Curry fumbles the ball slightly, blowing the chance for a dunk.
miss, drop, mishandle, bobble
1.5Express oneself or deal with something clumsily or nervously: asked for explanations, Michael had fumbled for words
More example sentences
  • Mimi nervously tugged at her shirt, and fumbled for words.
  • I began fumbling for words to say in response, still struggling to get over the fact that Tristan was, indeed, a Gypsy.
  • We, fumbling for words of love, remember the rockets the spinning wheels, the sudden diamonds and say with delight ‘Yes, like that, like that’
mess up, make a mess of, bungle, mismanage, mishandle, spoil
informal make a hash of, fluff, botch, muff, flub


[usually in singular]
1An act of using the hands clumsily while doing or handling something: just one fumble during a tire change could separate the winners from the losers
More example sentences
  • Yeah, the instructions make it so simple that even a child can go through it confidently, without a falter nor a fumble.
1.1 American Football An act of dropping or losing control of the ball, sometimes causing a turnover: his fumble was recovered on the 6-yard line
More example sentences
  • While the offense struggled to hold onto the ball with five fumbles, two lost, in the first half the defense dominated the Indians.
  • Neither team did a good job taking care of the ball on offense as Redbank Valley had three fumbles, lost one and two Jason Smith interceptions.
  • Banks' biggest downside is that he commits too many turnovers - he has 62 career fumbles, including 43 lost.
1.2(In other ball games) an act of failing to catch or field the ball cleanly.
Example sentences
  • He registered eight tackles, had two sacks, recovered a fumble and blocked a field goal - all despite being blocked most of the game by a tackle and tight end.
  • He registered two sacks, blocked a field goal and recovered a fumble.
  • Culpepper made two critical mistakes - a fumble on the goal line and, to a lesser extent, the game-ending interception.
slip, mistake, error, gaffe
informal slip-up, boo-boo
1.3An act of managing or dealing with something clumsily: we are not talking about subtle errors of judgment, but major fumbles
More example sentences
  • I made a major fumble last night in modifying the journal files and creating a new one for the day's new entry.



Pronunciation: /ˈfəmb(ə)lər/
Example sentences
  • This comedy of manners evokes a matriarchal world where the men are often fumblers, their dignity taken from them in a biased culture, or thugs who try to take what they want by force.
  • Well, the translator of this 1672 edition disagrees with most other fumblers who have attempted to bring meaning to this series of hoaxes.
  • True, some of it is pretty bad, but even the fumblers among us don't deserve that adjective…


Pronunciation: /ˈfəmb(ə)liNGlē/
Example sentences
  • Halie fumblingly continued, ‘I mean, I mean, um, that's pretty?’
  • The dialogue is by turns glibly posturing, fumblingly poetic, cuttingly punchy, often covering up aches and voids beneath, and always right.
  • Alex fumblingly grabbed his TDL from his wallet and handed it over.


Late Middle English: from Low German fommeln or Dutch fommelen.

Words that rhyme with fumble

bumble, crumble, grumble, humble, jumble, mumble, rough-and-tumble, rumble, scumble, stumble, tumble, umbel

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: fum·ble

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