Definition of tumble in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈtʌmb(ə)l/


1 [no object, with adverbial] Fall suddenly, clumsily, or headlong: she pitched forward, tumbling down the remaining stairs
More example sentences
  • They tumbled down, falling down a small hill then down some brush.
  • Fat drops tumbled down to slick the streets.
  • Looking up at the water fall she had just tumbled down she decided to keep moving.
fall (over), fall down, topple over, lose one's footing, lose one's balance, keel over, pitch over, take a spill, collapse, fall headlong, fall head over heels, fall end over end;
trip, trip up, stumble
informal come a cropper
dated measure one's length
archaic grabble
1.1Move or rush in a headlong or uncontrolled way: police and dogs tumbled from the vehicle
More example sentences
  • She saw them tumbling towards her and rushed to help them.
  • India tumbles on uncontrollably to becoming the diabetes capital of the world.
  • They ran up together as fast as they could and tumbled into Ginnys room.
hurry, rush, scramble, pile;
scurry, scuttle;
jump, spring, bound
cascade, fall, stream, flow, pour, spill
1.2 [with object] Rumple; disarrange: (as adjective tumbled) his tumbled bedclothes
tousle, dishevel, ruffle, rumple, make untidy, disarrange, disorder, mess up
North American informal muss (up)
2 [no object] Perform acrobatic feats, typically handsprings and somersaults in the air.
Example sentences
  • On floor exercise one gymnast tumbled a double layout, two whips to double pike, and stuck full-in dismount.
  • In 1999, she suffered the same injury to her left knee while tumbling on floor exercise.
  • I will probably have to get surgery after Worlds because, for now, I can't tumble at all.
2.1(Of a breed of pigeon) repeatedly turn over backwards in flight.
3Fall rapidly in amount or value: property prices tumbled
More example sentences
  • Homeowners, watching the value of their flats tumble, complain that he flip-flopped on his housing policy - without telling the public.
  • Home owners have complained that the parade of neglected shops and flats on St George's Avenue has sent property prices in the area tumbling and left them unable to sell their houses.
  • The market value of wealth has tumbled, the real estate bubble looks set to burst, and unemployment is now rising sharply.
fall steeply/sharply, plummet, plunge, dive, nosedive, take a dive, drop rapidly, slump, slide, fall, decrease, decline
informal crash, go into a tailspin
4 [with object] Dry (washing) in a tumble dryer: the machine gentle tumbles the clothes in cool air for ten minutes
More example sentences
  • The drying process for doing laundry at home is either hanging clothes on a clothesline or tumbling them in a gas- or electric-heated dryer.
5 [no object] (tumble to) informal Understand the meaning or hidden implication of (a situation): she’ll ring again as soon as she tumbles to what she’s done
More example sentences
  • Rather oddly, Mrs Waters does not now or later tumble to Tom's identity.
realize, understand, grasp, comprehend, take in, apprehend, perceive, see, recognize;
see the light
informal latch on to, cotton on to, catch on to, get, get wise to, get one's head around, figure out, get a fix on, get the message, get the picture, have an aha moment
British informal twig, suss
North American informal savvy
6 [with object] informal Have sexual intercourse with: he was tumbling a strange woman
7 [with object] Clean (castings, gemstones, etc.) in a tumbling barrel.


1A sudden or headlong fall: I took a tumble in the nettles
More example sentences
  • When he tumbles headlong down some stairs, we're treated to a slow-motion pan, looking down on him.
  • A competitor in the under 17 race was taken to casualty with a damaged shoulder after taking a tumble on the descent.
  • The condition means a simple tumble can leave the 14-year-old with broken bones and Hayley has suffered more than 200 fractures since she was born.
fall, trip, spill
informal nosedive, header, cropper
1.1An untidy or confused arrangement or state: her hair was a tumble of untamed curls
More example sentences
  • Her hair was a tumble of blonde curls.
  • A young man stepped into the firelight, his face partly obscured by tumbles of dark brown hair.
  • He had tumbles of dark hair past his shoulders, a smirking mouth and a naturally flirty gaze.
jumble, mess, clutter, confusion;
chaos, disorder, disarray
2A handspring, somersault in the air, or other acrobatic feat.
Example sentences
  • She can perform huge vertical or horizontal leaps, often resulting in gymnastic tumbles and rolls in midair.
  • Hampton has been into fitness since she took her first tumble in gymnastics as a young girl.
  • He did the high wire. He did the acrobat tumbles.
3A rapid fall in amount or value: a tumble in share prices
More example sentences
  • There had been fears that Friday's game would have hit the markets badly, with thousands taking a day off work and share prices taking a tumble, whatever the outcome.
  • So far this year, sizeable share price tumbles are running at half the rate seen during last year.
  • There is a lot of upset around its share price tumble.
drop, fall, plunge, dive, nosedive, slump, decline, collapse
informal crash
4 informal An act of sexual intercourse.
Example sentences
  • I figured anyone who's that good in bed would definitely be worth a tumble.
5US informal A friendly sign of recognition, acknowledgement, or interest: not a soul gave him a tumble


Middle English (as a verb, also in the sense 'dance with contortions'): from Middle Low German tummelen; compare with Old English tumbian 'to dance'. The sense was probably influenced by Old French tomber 'to fall'. The noun, first in the sense 'tangled mass', dates from the mid 17th century.

Words that rhyme with tumble

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

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: tum¦ble

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

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