Definition of dribble in English:



  • 1[no object and usually with adverbial of direction] (of a liquid) fall slowly in drops or a thin stream.

    ‘rain dribbled down the window’
    • ‘Then, he started to cry, tears dribbled down his face and dropped to the ground.’
    • ‘The small amount of oil still dribbling out of Venezuela is coming mostly from wells controlled by foreign multinationals.’
    • ‘The nectar dribbled down their chins and dripped onto their chests.’
    • ‘The spray dribbled back into the shallow pool, and I started off home again, wiping the water off my forehead.’
    • ‘The drama of a simultaneous release was hindered by technical difficulties, so the balloons dribbled out and up like bubbles rising in viscous liquid.’
    • ‘And then, as a trickle of dank brown liquid dribbled out onto the floor I worked it out.’
    • ‘It was a gloomy day; fog hung think on the ground, frost coated the lawns, and the faintest hint of rain dribbled down his windows.’
    • ‘I was falling, falling through a darkness as thick as the tears which dribbled from my gaping eyes.’
    • ‘He laughed, teasing me, and I watched helplessly as the last drop of milk dribbled into his cereal bowl.’
    • ‘It should dribble slowly, not run, from your finger.’
    • ‘A wooden bowl was pressed against my lips and water dribbled over my face.’
    • ‘Water dribbles down the paddles and soaks your T-shirt.’
    • ‘Lines of information dribbled slowly to and from her mind, never revealing anything of great use.’
    • ‘The water dribbled down his chin to fall across his boyish chest.’
    • ‘The glasses of water the waitress had brought for us spilled over and the water dribbled onto the floor.’
    • ‘The paint was still dribbling slowly in rivulets down the wood.’
    • ‘Johnny said, clapping me on the back as little droplets dribbled out from my lips and onto the table.’
    • ‘These appear wherever water dribbled or dripped in ancient times, adding a touch of the exotic to this already mysterious and silent place.’
    • ‘As the money and the members have dribbled away, so the political problems have slowly accumulated too.’
    • ‘Cool water dribbled on his lips, and he opened his mouth, moistening his tongue and swallowing.’
    trickle, drip, fall in drops, drop, drizzle
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    1. 1.1[with object and adverbial of direction]Pour (a liquid) slowly in a thin stream.
      ‘he dribbled cream into his coffee’
      • ‘Water was dribbled into her mouth and she turned her head to the side choking it back out.’
      • ‘I wipe them with solvent when I dribble chain oil on them accidentally too.’
      • ‘A little boiling water was dribbled onto loose tea leaves in a strainer, just to wet them.’
      • ‘Water is dribbled in from the top of each panel to moisten the backing felt and then seeps through to the felt cups, keeping the plant roots moist.’
      • ‘He poured and dribbled paint boldly and, in doing so, took great risks, because if any single action had failed, the entire painting would have been ruined.’
      • ‘As essential oils were dribbled onto my third eye, I felt I was participating in an ancient rite, not some modern holistic ritual.’
      • ‘She opened the jar and dribbled a thin line of clear liquid over his cuts, one by one.’
      • ‘She sat on the corner of the bed, which looked all the bigger with Michael's lonely figure curled up in the middle, nursing the glass of water and trying very hard not to dribble it on himself as he forced the liquid into his unwilling stomach.’
      • ‘I hadn't even finished the author's note before I'd dribbled teriyaki sauce on the picture of the man in the sardine shirt.’
      • ‘Then, after tagging the ends with a dye, the partly replicated fragments are dribbled into fine gel-filled capillary tubes inside a sequencing machine.’
      • ‘You then dribble ice-cold gin down the side of the glass and watch as spindly white clumps form in the mixture.’
      • ‘Water was dribbled onto his lips, and he opened his mouth desperately.’
      • ‘Blend together for a few seconds, then very slowly dribble the oil through the feeder tube - drop by drop to begin with.’
      • ‘He was almost gentle when he dribbled some water over my lips then let me sip.’
      • ‘I stared down at my palm and gasped when I saw that the skin was actually blistered and red, like boiling water had been dribbled over my palm.’
      • ‘The same hand scooped some of the water up and dribbled it around her, circling her body in an effort to protect herself from harm.’
      • ‘He dribbled a few droplets of water onto the snake.’
      • ‘She then proceeds to dribble hot liquids, smear sticky things or leave trails of crumbs - whatever seems most appropriate to the fouling of the surface in question.’
      • ‘Warm soapy water was dribbled onto the net to moisten the fibres.’
      • ‘He should have dribbled the story out over a couple of weeks on the CBS evening news instead of presenting it all at one time.’
      tip, let flow, drizzle, splash, spill, decant, discharge
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    2. 1.2[no object]Allow saliva to run from the mouth.
      ‘his mouth was open and he was dribbling’
      • ‘Stripes snaked down his body, yellowy eyes stared back at both warriors, orange fur bristled in the heat, and sharp canines dribbled with saliva.’
      • ‘He had dribbled in his sleep, saliva running down his chin.’
      • ‘And, for a number of babies, this can make them a little irritable, more inclined to wake up crying at night, more liable to drool and dribble, and need more soothing and comfort.’
      • ‘His mouth dribbled at the thought of the human food; though it lacked the piquancy of live prey, it had strangely appetizing flavours.’
      drool, slaver, slobber, salivate, drivel, water at the mouth
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  • 2[with object and adverbial of direction] (in soccer, hockey, and basketball) take (the ball) forwards past opponents with slight touches of the feet or the stick, or (in basketball) by continuous bouncing.

    ‘he attempted to dribble the ball from the goal area’
    • ‘You don't have to try to dribble round ten players, and when players understand that, that's when they really do it well.’
    • ‘You'll have to step up the hill, in a motion similar to dribbling a soccer ball from foot to foot.’
    • ‘You want to try to make the point guard dribble the ball at least three or four times.’
    • ‘He dribbled it slowly, before crouching in his normal stance.’
    • ‘He dribbled the ball all the way home every night and slept with it.’
    • ‘He had to use a hockey stick to dribble a ball round some cones.’
    • ‘One odd note: he doesn't dribble the ball at the foul line.’
    • ‘Sometimes he would dribble the ball 10 times before he would shoot, ignoring open teammates.’
    • ‘I could never dribble the ball, but I was always basically a coach on the floor.’
    • ‘That, of course, was exactly my plan, and I pushed past him, dribbling the ball down the field before scoring after many failed attempts at stealing the ball on his part.’
    • ‘Back then you dribbled the ball, now you carry it.’
    • ‘Midfielder Craig Smith tried to dribble the ball in an area that invited danger.’
    • ‘He was dribbling slowly down the court, looking for the right person to pass to.’
    • ‘Charging past him, she dribbled the ball with one hand, to get a shot in at the three-point line.’
    • ‘They couldn't dribble the ball and move, and they had particular roles that they had to play on court.’
    • ‘If you're dribbling the ball 10 times, it's going to take 30 minutes to shoot 100 free throws.’
    • ‘It was a relay event in which a group of basketball players dribble the ball for a short distance, where another group of players takes over, and the relay continues.’
    • ‘Non-competitive stuff can be just as fun and as good for you as dribbling a soccer ball down the field.’
    • ‘He dribbled the ball down the street towards the goal.’
    • ‘It was a superb solo effort from midfielder Jo Martin, who dribbled her way through the defence and beat the keeper.’


  • 1A thin stream of liquid; a trickle.

    ‘a dribble of blood’
    • ‘Design a tie whose pattern is made up of faithfully reproduced egg-yolk blobs, tomato sauce splashes, spaghetti-spills and dribbles of chocolate sauce, so that the real thing will never be noticed.’
    • ‘Once an emulsion has begun to form, you can increase the dribble to a thin, slow stream.’
    • ‘I'm willing to bet that the same person is responsible for putting the milk back in the fridge with mere dribble at the bottom of the bottle.’
    • ‘A paraplegic man has been left high and dry after water pressure was reduced leaving his power shower producing little more than a dribble.’
    • ‘A small dribble of dressing dripped down his pale chin.’
    • ‘Over the next two days, I have managed to head south-west at last, but ominously, my water maker has become very flaky and after stripping and cleaning it for four hours, I can generate no more than a dribble.’
    • ‘A dribble of saliva clung to his chin, but he didn't seem to mind.’
    • ‘He felt a sting, and the familiar dribble of blood over his fingers.’
    • ‘For the waterfall fan there was a six-foot dribble, and a good walk finished in dappled sunlight and the hum of large hoverflies.’
    • ‘A small dribble of blood ran form the corner of his mouth.’
    • ‘With thick dribbles of paint streaming down the canvases, a certain symmetry is achieved.’
    • ‘The best part was the rich, soothing dribble of olive oil and sprinkling of salt that gave the dairy some flavour.’
    • ‘I wiped a dribble of blood from my lip and saw that the kid's lip was bleeding as well.’
    • ‘He was diagnosed as having an enlarged prostate, which was preventing him relieving himself properly so he could only force a dribble out each time he went.’
    • ‘A dribble of ketchup slide down her chin and threatened to stain her t-shirt, but she scooped it up just in time.’
    • ‘What was it, exactly, about the thin red dribble on top of the sloshy substance which was supposed to make it instantly more alluring?’
    • ‘He paced the maze of corridors to the small conference room and burst into the room with a dribble of sweat trickling down his forehead.’
    • ‘A dribble of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth as he fought to find enough force to speak.’
    • ‘Foley said there was a lovely supply of water at the Lower Stream which is now reduced to a dribble.’
    • ‘Compared to many places in the world, our level of refugees is not so much a tide as a dribble.’
    trickle, drip, driblet, small stream, drizzle
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    1. 1.1[mass noun]Saliva running from the mouth.
      ‘there was dribble down his chin’
      • ‘Evan sat in a little corner bored, watching the two babies communicate in their funny language of popping bubbles of dribble, giggling and laughter.’
      • ‘I had a bit of a snooze and woke up with dribble all down my shirt.’
      • ‘Your users are so feeble minded you're lucky they can manage a keyboard without filling it with dribble.’
      • ‘With a stretch, a yawn and a scratch, he adjusted his position and returned to sleep, a spot of dribble suspended from his mouth.’
      • ‘Man, where are the tissues when you need them - there was dribble everywhere.’
      saliva, spittle, spit, slaver, slobber, drool
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  • 2(in soccer, hockey, and basketball) an act of taking the ball forward with repeated slight touches or bounces.

    ‘a mesmerizing dribble by Daley took him through to confirm Villa's victory’
    • ‘At the same time, fake the dribble by bringing the ball down outside your knee.’
    • ‘The club hopes he brings increased accuracy from the perimeter as well as the quickness and ability to make plays off the dribble.’
    • ‘He scored the goal that his play deserved with five minutes left as he finished off a fine dribble through the stretched Strand rearguard.’
    • ‘It also plays down his weaknesses - ballhandling, creating off the dribble, facing the basket and perimeter shooting.’
    • ‘He'll have to do the one thing he seemed most afraid to do in the past two years: attack the basket on the dribble.’
    • ‘He can score from the inside or the outside, has the ability to handle the basketball and take players off the dribble.’
    • ‘They'd wow fans with fancy dribbles, swift crossovers and slam dunks well above the rim.’
    • ‘This guy has the whole package: quickness, explosiveness off the dribble, shooting range and creativity.’
    • ‘The dribbles, the drives, the slam dunks just don't seem the same.’
    • ‘While he makes certain rookie ball-handling mistakes, he also shows a low dribble and ball control that lets him get to the hoop against tough defense.’
    • ‘He is taking the ball to the basket aggressively and making plays off the dribble for his teammates.’
    • ‘He's an awesome athlete, knows how to play above the rim, and can take any Power Forward off the dribble.’
    • ‘He did not show any early nerves, scampering off down the left and deceiving Alen Orman not once, but twice with a teasing dribble.’
    • ‘He comfortably shot-fakes, advances the ball with a quick dribble and pulls up for 15-foot jumpers.’
    • ‘He is a good midrange shooter, runs the floor extremely well and can heat power forwards off the dribble.’
    • ‘If a player couldn't use the side of the ball to accelerate his dribble, we might never see another layup.’
    • ‘In one recent game, he had more than 35 touches yet managed to take his dribble into the paint twice.’
    • ‘The defender must make dribbles, passes, or shots difficult.’
    • ‘He also can score off the dribble, and that will be a boost to the interior offense.’
    • ‘Under the college rules, the Howardites were allowed to dribble around the court and, as in today's game, shoot at will.’


Mid 16th century: frequentative of obsolete drib, variant of drip. The original sense was ‘shoot an arrow short or wide of its target’, which was also a sense of drib.