Definition of muddle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈmʌd(ə)l/


[with object]
1Bring into a disordered or confusing state: they were muddling up the cards
More example sentences
  • Getting into that whole cluster would become very confusing quickly, since we've got overlapping issues, aside from Vietnam muddling up the mix.
  • I had even put in soft lenses, which always hurt so badly, so that I didn't have to have glasses muddling up my face.
  • The two teams certainly entered into the seasonal spirit, if a little confusion muddled the role-playing.
confuse, mix up, jumble, jumble up, disarrange, disorganize, disorder, disturb, throw into disorder, get into a tangle, scramble, mess up
jumbled, in a jumble, in a muddle, in a mess, chaotic, in disorder, in disarray, topsy-turvy, disorganized, disordered, disorderly, out of place, out of order, mixed up, upside-down, at sixes and sevens, untidy, messy, scrambled, tangled
informal higgledy-piggledy
1.1Confuse (a person or their thoughts): Paul was hopelessly muddled by the rates of exchange
More example sentences
  • When I made my witness statement I was muddled in the accounts which I gave in paragraph 6 and paragraph 8.
  • I'm just following my somewhat muddled thoughts where they take me.
  • Liberals gravitate toward the gray to muddy the waters, to muddle people's thinking.
bewilder, confuse, bemuse, perplex, puzzle, baffle, nonplus, mystify, confound, disorientate, disorient, befuddle, daze, addle
confused, in a state of confusion, bewildered, bemused, perplexed, disorientated, disoriented, at sea, in a muddle, befuddled, dazed
informal discombobulated
Canadian & Australian/New Zealand informal bushed
incoherent, confused, muddle-headed, woolly, jumbled, disjointed
1.2 [no object, with adverbial] Busy oneself in an aimless or ineffective way: he was muddling about in the kitchen
More example sentences
  • After muddling around for a few days, he comes out fully in favor of the government's position and vows to endorse whatever the government proposes in relation to boat people.
  • For a number of years I've been muddling in the mire of trying to figure out who and what I am in relation to church, denomination, God etc.
  • I'm just muddling around here like an ant in a potplant, not always realizing there are larger things out there than my little world.
2Mix (a drink) or stir (an ingredient) into a drink.
Example sentences
  • Place the mint, tangerine, lime juice and syrup in a shaker tin, muddle all ingredients together.
  • Requiring your bartenders to cut the lemons and muddle them in front of the customer each time a drink is ordered is too arduous.
  • In a mixing glass, moderately muddle syrup, bitters, mint, orange and lime together.


[usually in singular]
1An untidy and disorganized state or collection: the finances were in a muddle [mass noun]: she was able to cut through confusion and muddle
More example sentences
  • Even if, like me, you think the polls are often in a muddle, they do tell a consistent story on economic management.
  • She dares us to dress down, to strip ourselves of our illusions and to acknowledge that, for most of the time, we live life in a muddle and ‘that every hour contains at least a moment of bewilderment or worse’.
  • He says: ‘Ordinary events got Jennings in a muddle and we can identify with these.’
1.1A mistake arising from or resulting in confusion: a bureaucratic muddle
More example sentences
  • Despite the muddles of his campaign, his message won him nearly 49% of the votes.
  • Here in India, especially in relatively small cities like Dehra Doon, it feels like half magic a lot of the time and the only way to live through the muddles is to be determined to find them funny.
  • The four great battles of Cassino brought to a head all the muddles and contradictions of the Italian campaign.
bungle, mix-up, misunderstanding, mistake
informal hash, foul-up, screw-up
British informal car crash
North American informal snafu
vulgar slang fuck-up
British vulgar slang balls-up

Phrasal verbs


muddle through (or British along)

Cope more or less satisfactorily despite lack of expertise, planning, or equipment: while the children were young, we managed to muddle through
More example sentences
  • ‘We just manage to muddle through but it's a bit of a strain over seven weeks,’ says Kenny Kingshott.
  • However, I have enough faith in the inherent common sense of the human race to believe that we will, as ever, just manage to muddle through.
  • But generally - and I say this knowing full well that I am tempting every fate known to man - we have managed to muddle along quite well.
cope, manage, get by/along, scrape by/along, make do, make the best of a bad job

muddle something up

Confuse two or more things with each other: the words seemed to have got muddled up
More example sentences
  • Thus, the matter is muddled up as a manager-employee conflict instead of a pure freedom of expression issue.
  • And so, because I didn't want to go through the rest of my life eating the wrong food and muddling homeopaths up with homosexuals, I selected the weakest lenses and set about choosing some frames.
  • I think a lot of people muddle celebrities up with soaps.



Example sentences
  • At first blissfully unaware of the looming nuclear catastrophe, their muddling path towards doom is in equal parts pathetic, frightening and funny.
  • Out has gone the old, muddling approach, in has come good capital management methods, a tougher approach to diversification, and a commitment to boost returns.
  • Great achievements don't spring into existence fully fledged with greatness; they grow out of life's mundane, muddling debates, and out of feats of patience.


Example sentences
  • And too many parents are left muddlingly only among those who express sympathy and criticism, and don't help them along the road of seeing the gifts.
  • ‘It's symbolic in that each voice is different, you know,’ he says, muddlingly.
  • Despite the eyelocks and handholds and sunsets and stargazing, her relationship with V is muddlingly platonic.


Example sentences
  • But, the reason why it's a muddly subject is because they're being thick and pointless on purpose!
  • He's the most muddly old thing and incidentally never finishes a sentence.
  • The Economist gushed, ‘The muddly, statist, sort-of-socialist Egypt of old has become the very model of a modern emerging market.’


Late Middle English (in the sense 'wallow in mud'): perhaps from Middle Dutch moddelen, frequentative of modden 'dabble in mud'; compare with mud. The sense 'confuse' was initially associated with alcoholic drink (late 17th century), giving rise to 'busy oneself in a confused way' and 'jumble up' (mid 19th century).

Words that rhyme with muddle

befuddle, cuddle, fuddle, huddle, puddle, ruddle

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: mud¦dle

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