Share this entry

Share this page

fumble

Line breaks: fum¦ble
Pronunciation: /ˈfʌmb(ə)l
 
/

Definition of fumble in English:

verb

[no object, with adverbial]
1Do or handle something clumsily: 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.
Synonyms
grope, feel about, search blindly, scrabble around, muddle around;
fish, delve, cast about/around/round for
archaic grabble for
1.1 (fumble about/around) Move clumsily in various directions using the hands to find one’s way: he fumbled about in the dark but could not find her
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.
Synonyms
stumble, blunder, flounder, lumber, bumble, stagger, totter, lurch, move clumsily, move awkwardly;
feel one's way, grope one's way
1.2 [with object and adverbial] 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] (In ball games) fail to catch or field (the ball) cleanly: have you ever seen him fumble a ball? [no object]: the keeper fumbled
More 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.
Synonyms
fail to catch, miss, drop, mishandle, handle awkwardly;
1.4Express oneself or deal with something clumsily or nervously: 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’
Synonyms
blunder, make a mistake
North American informal flub

noun

[usually in singular] Back to top  
1An act of doing or handling something clumsily: just one fumble during a tyre 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 informal An act of fondling someone for sexual pleasure: a quick fumble in a downtown tavern
More example sentences
  • Finally, have sex when you're awake, not just at the end of the day when it's a quick fumble before you fall asleep.
  • She gets two more drinks and a quick fumble with the hunky policeman, who apologises for his insensitivity to the subtleties of the evidence.
  • We then proceeded to snog, fumble, grope and rub, until her friends pulled her off onto the dancefloor.
Synonyms
fondle, grope, caress, hug, embrace, cuddle
informal feel-up
1.2(In ball games) an act of failing to catch or field the ball cleanly: he recovered a fumble after a bad exchange
More 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.
Synonyms
slip, miss, drop, mishandling;
misfielding;
British informal cock-up
1.3An act of managing or dealing with something clumsily: we are not talking about subtle errors of judgement, 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.

Origin

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

Derivatives

fumbler

1
noun
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…

Definition of fumble in:

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day snarf
Pronunciation: snärf
verb
eat or drink quickly or greedily