Definition of bungle in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Carry out (a task) clumsily or incompetently, leading to failure or an unsatisfactory outcome.

    ‘she had bungled every attempt to help’
    • ‘A robber who bungled a post office raid left police the easiest of clues.’
    • ‘About 40 officers sealed off the bank and nearby streets before it emerged that the robbers had bungled the raid and fled empty handed.’
    • ‘He faces 20 allegations including drinking alcohol while on call, botched surgery and bungled use of equipment.’
    • ‘His memorable departure from the series came in 2002 after his on screen character, Hector, bungled an attempt to blow a killer pike out of the loch using a remote controlled boat and explosives.’
    • ‘The Chinese bungled the experiments with this deadly virus and unwittingly unleashed it upon themselves and their neighbors.’
    • ‘He was supposed to be dead a year ago, but the Wildcard had bungled her assignment.’
    • ‘We must have botched the first task, because we've certainly bungled the second.’
    • ‘The European parliament has bungled its latest attempt to outlaw spam.’
    • ‘Fiddled expenses, lavish trips and bungled paperwork had become commonplace at the Paris headquarters, a national audit report concluded.’
    • ‘But someone (don't ask who) bungled the order, and men and horses on the valley floor charged straight into firing cannons.’
    • ‘However, with a victory target of 226, Mon Repos bungled the task and finished at 105 for 8, to avoid a match defeat.’
    • ‘Let's hope I don't bungle any of my assignments.’
    • ‘Critics are blaming bungled attempts to find the right people to run the new Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service after pitching the initial salary too low to attract the right calibre of candidate.’
    • ‘Another strand involves three inept gangsters and a dog, who bungle every job they attempt, and whose dog you just know is going to become a crucial part of the plot.’
    • ‘My antipathy is not the result of some journalistic hangover from years of writing and reading stories about bungled management, deadline-defying delays and vertiginous cost rises.’
    • ‘First, while not unreasonable, the assumption that we would bungle the task of assigning rationality is speculative.’
    • ‘The FBI and the CIA seem to have bungled things, to put it gently.’
    • ‘If I bungled this mission it would look horrible on my record.’
    • ‘Within the opening 30 minutes of play, about five goal attempts were bungled as the players misdirected shots that could have easily been placed into the nets.’
    • ‘On 18 March, government troops bungled an attempt to remove cannon placed on the heights of Montmartre, which provoked the feared rebellion.’
    mishandle, mismanage, mess up, make a mess of, botch, spoil, mar, ruin
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1usually as adjective bunglingno object Make or be prone to making many mistakes.
      ‘the work of a bungling amateur’
      • ‘Ward's Starkweather is more reductive - not so much a demonic imp, just a dumb and numb killer who kills because he can, and is sordid and bungling in the way he goes about it.’
      • ‘A bungling bootlegger peddling pirate DVDs was caught red-handed when he attempted to sell his loot to a Surrey trading standards officer outside the trading standards office.’
      • ‘And then his bungling efforts were absurdly inadequate to deal with the tire.’
      • ‘The gang may have been from Peckham and been as bungling as Del Boy and Rodney in Only Fools and Horses but their raid on a Winchester store was no joke.’
      • ‘Put together, these global convulsions are likely to have a greater impact on our little black speck in the Caribbean than industrial unrest, a bungling PM, a sourpuss UNC top rank, and all our other woes.’
      • ‘Each day seems to bring some new revelation and the hierarchy's bungling, even venal handling of such cases.’
      • ‘And they're bungling, and they're a mess by flattering the troops.’
      • ‘Personally, I think that school lunch programs have taken the path of every other bungling government bureaucracy and are achieving noteworthiness for inefficiency.’
      • ‘Now his not knowing the difference was what I should call bungling and very amateurish.’
      • ‘His political career is plagued with bungling mistakes, places where he stuck his neck out only to have his head chopped off.’
      • ‘As a result of these visits, he made fun of his old employers at SIS in his new book, Our Man in Havana, a stunning entertainment about bungling British spies in Cuba, which was published three months before Castro's victory.’
      • ‘It is all in the facts and figures, but, of course, she images somebody who is useless, inept, bungling, and ineffectual.’
      • ‘Dhanraj limped off shortly after that, taking a ball on his foot, then came back after the Airlines goal fell and contributed one more defence-splitting pass, with Mukesh bungling again.’
      • ‘One can only wonder how many men have actually been driven to murder their wives or girlfriends by the bungling ineffectiveness that passes for domestic violence industry methodology.’
      • ‘A persistent, yet bungling, house breaker is behind bars for more than four years after being caught red-handed during his latest two exploits.’
      • ‘Crime-fighting in the early 18th century has tended to be written off as bungling and corrupt, but Sharpe makes the important revisionist point that the Gregory gang was brought down with exemplary speed and efficiency.’
      • ‘This is - on one level you've got to accept that he was bungling and made a lot of errors.’
      • ‘The family takes shelter in the Indian embassy and it comes across odd characters such as the bungling son of the ambassador, a priest who also is a magician, a south Indian chef, a visiting sheikh with his burqa-clad wife.’
      • ‘In fact she made some of the other contributors sound slightly bungling and lightweight.’
      • ‘If the government bungles, decoy ministers are deployed to take the flak; if party unity cracks, implausible rumors of Blair's impending fall are mobilized to rally the dissenters.’
      incompetent, blundering, amateurish, inept, unskilful, inexpert, clumsy, maladroit, gauche, awkward, inefficient, muddled, oafish, clodhopping, bumbling, stumbling, lumbering, foolish, useless
      View synonyms


  • A mistake or failure, typically one resulting from mismanagement or confusion.

    • ‘The West Macs claim is likely to succeed only in a few small areas, a result of administrative bungles in the past.’
    • ‘But the mistakes and bungles didn't stop at the conclusion of the war to end all wars.’
    • ‘The bungle is attributed to haste and sloppiness.’
    • ‘Red-faced council officers claim the bungle occurred only because they were trying to save taxpayers’ money.’
    • ‘It has also emerged that the cost of the huge bungle has risen still further, as red-faced officials have warned ministers that they are preparing to write off £14.4m paid out during the fiasco.’
    • ‘The bungle has been branded ‘dismal’ by a passenger group based in Manchester, which is calling on Network Rail and train companies to start planning ahead to make sure it never happens again.’
    • ‘Surely, he cannot any longer be expected to bear the full brunt of our judicial and bureaucratic bungles.’
    • ‘The Government, when the bungle was first announced, estimated $500 million.’
    • ‘But a minister should also be prepared to accept blame and responsibility for the mistakes and bungles made.’
    • ‘Nobody has expressed regret that a series of bungles and questionable decisions drove a man to suicide.’
    • ‘They claim the bungle may have helped to fuel the alarming childhood obesity crisis in the UK and associated problems such as heart disease and diabetes in later life.’
    • ‘She had to be dropped from the newcomer category last month after an eligibility bungle because she had already been shortlisted for best female in 2000, but lost out out to Sonique.’
    • ‘They need to be told that they will not become criminals because of the department's bungles and blunders.’
    • ‘Today we know of a new bungle which will deliver an average debt to Australian families of an additional $400 to $800.’
    • ‘Raised on a diet of historical bungles, betrayals and defeats, we've hardly an ounce of self-belief left.’
    • ‘And why these repeated banking bungles in the hi-tech city, supposedly the ultimate destination in India for software companies and foreign banks, alone?’
    • ‘But there's no proof that it would be free of bureaucratic bungles, or serve as a more effective early warning system against potential terrorist attacks.’
    • ‘Sky channel subscribers in York reacted angrily to the bungle, which could have led to monthly payments of £9 being taken out of their accounts for the next two years.’
    • ‘Compensation for pensioners left out of pocket by Inland Revenue computer glitches is just the latest in a costly string of bungles, says the study by Computing magazine.’
    • ‘The bungles allowed St Louis to draw level a second and third time after twice trailing by two runs late in the game.’
    muddle, mess, tangle, jumble, entanglement, imbroglio
    View synonyms


Mid 16th century: of unknown origin; compare with bumble.