Definition of dribble in US English:



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

    ‘rain dribbled down the window’
    • ‘Johnny said, clapping me on the back as little droplets dribbled out from my lips and onto the table.’
    • ‘The small amount of oil still dribbling out of Venezuela is coming mostly from wells controlled by foreign multinationals.’
    • ‘And then, as a trickle of dank brown liquid dribbled out onto the floor I worked it out.’
    • ‘The drama of a simultaneous release was hindered by technical difficulties, so the balloons dribbled out and up like bubbles rising in viscous liquid.’
    • ‘The spray dribbled back into the shallow pool, and I started off home again, wiping the water off my forehead.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As the money and the members have dribbled away, so the political problems have slowly accumulated too.’
    • ‘It should dribble slowly, not run, from your finger.’
    • ‘Then, he started to cry, tears dribbled down his face and dropped to the ground.’
    • ‘Water dribbles down the paddles and soaks your T-shirt.’
    • ‘The paint was still dribbling slowly in rivulets down the wood.’
    • ‘He laughed, teasing me, and I watched helplessly as the last drop of milk dribbled into his cereal bowl.’
    • ‘I was falling, falling through a darkness as thick as the tears which dribbled from my gaping eyes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Cool water dribbled on his lips, and he opened his mouth, moistening his tongue and swallowing.’
    • ‘Lines of information dribbled slowly to and from her mind, never revealing anything of great use.’
    • ‘A wooden bowl was pressed against my lips and water dribbled over my face.’
    • ‘The nectar dribbled down their chins and dripped onto their chests.’
    • ‘These appear wherever water dribbled or dripped in ancient times, adding a touch of the exotic to this already mysterious and silent place.’
    trickle, drip, fall in drops, drop, drizzle
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    1. 1.1with object and adverbial of direction Pour (a liquid) slowly in drops or a thin stream.
      ‘he dribbled cream into his coffee’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Blend together for a few seconds, then very slowly dribble the oil through the feeder tube - drop by drop to begin with.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She opened the jar and dribbled a thin line of clear liquid over his cuts, one by one.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He was almost gentle when he dribbled some water over my lips then let me sip.’
      • ‘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 into her mouth and she turned her head to the side choking it back out.’
      • ‘A little boiling water was dribbled onto loose tea leaves in a strainer, just to wet them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He dribbled a few droplets of water onto the snake.’
      • ‘As essential oils were dribbled onto my third eye, I felt I was participating in an ancient rite, not some modern holistic ritual.’
      • ‘Then, after tagging the ends with a dye, the partly replicated fragments are dribbled into fine gel-filled capillary tubes inside a sequencing machine.’
      • ‘Warm soapy water was dribbled onto the net to moisten the fibres.’
      • ‘Water was dribbled onto his lips, and he opened his mouth desperately.’
      • ‘I wipe them with solvent when I dribble chain oil on them accidentally too.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      tip, let flow, drizzle, splash, spill, decant, discharge
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    2. 1.2 Allow saliva to run from the mouth.
      ‘his mouth was open and he was dribbling’
      • ‘His mouth dribbled at the thought of the human food; though it lacked the piquancy of live prey, it had strangely appetizing flavours.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He had dribbled in his sleep, saliva running down his chin.’
      • ‘Stripes snaked down his body, yellowy eyes stared back at both warriors, orange fur bristled in the heat, and sharp canines dribbled with saliva.’
      drool, slaver, slobber, salivate, drivel, water at the mouth
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  • 2with object and adverbial of direction (chiefly in soccer, field hockey, and basketball) take (the ball) forward 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’
    no object ‘he dribbled past a swarm of defenders’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They couldn't dribble the ball and move, and they had particular roles that they had to play on court.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Sometimes he would dribble the ball 10 times before he would shoot, ignoring open teammates.’
    • ‘You'll have to step up the hill, in a motion similar to dribbling a soccer ball from foot to foot.’
    • ‘Midfielder Craig Smith tried to dribble the ball in an area that invited danger.’
    • ‘Charging past him, she dribbled the ball with one hand, to get a shot in at the three-point line.’
    • ‘He dribbled the ball down the street towards the goal.’
    • ‘He had to use a hockey stick to dribble a ball round some cones.’
    • ‘You want to try to make the point guard dribble the ball at least three or four times.’
    • ‘If you're dribbling the ball 10 times, it's going to take 30 minutes to shoot 100 free throws.’
    • ‘You don't have to try to dribble round ten players, and when players understand that, that's when they really do it well.’
    • ‘It was a superb solo effort from midfielder Jo Martin, who dribbled her way through the defence and beat the keeper.’
    • ‘Back then you dribbled the ball, now you carry it.’
    • ‘He dribbled it slowly, before crouching in his normal stance.’
    • ‘He was dribbling slowly down the court, looking for the right person to pass to.’
    • ‘He dribbled the ball all the way home every night and slept with it.’
    • ‘I could never dribble the ball, but I was always basically a coach on the floor.’
    • ‘One odd note: he doesn't dribble the ball at the foul line.’


  • 1A thin stream of liquid; a trickle.

    ‘a dribble of blood’
    • ‘A dribble of ketchup slide down her chin and threatened to stain her t-shirt, but she scooped it up just in time.’
    • ‘A paraplegic man has been left high and dry after water pressure was reduced leaving his power shower producing little more than a dribble.’
    • ‘The best part was the rich, soothing dribble of olive oil and sprinkling of salt that gave the dairy some flavour.’
    • ‘Once an emulsion has begun to form, you can increase the dribble to a thin, slow stream.’
    • ‘I wiped a dribble of blood from my lip and saw that the kid's lip was bleeding as well.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘What was it, exactly, about the thin red dribble on top of the sloshy substance which was supposed to make it instantly more alluring?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘With thick dribbles of paint streaming down the canvases, a certain symmetry is achieved.’
    • ‘A small dribble of blood ran form the corner of his mouth.’
    • ‘A small dribble of dressing dripped down his pale chin.’
    • ‘A dribble of saliva clung to his chin, but he didn't seem to mind.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘For the waterfall fan there was a six-foot dribble, and a good walk finished in dappled sunlight and the hum of large hoverflies.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Compared to many places in the world, our level of refugees is not so much a tide as a dribble.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He felt a sting, and the familiar dribble of blood over his fingers.’
    • ‘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.’
    trickle, drip, driblet, small stream, drizzle
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    1. 1.1 Saliva running from the mouth.
      • ‘Man, where are the tissues when you need them - there was dribble everywhere.’
      • ‘I had a bit of a snooze and woke up with dribble all down my shirt.’
      • ‘With a stretch, a yawn and a scratch, he adjusted his position and returned to sleep, a spot of dribble suspended from his mouth.’
      • ‘Your users are so feeble minded you're lucky they can manage a keyboard without filling it with dribble.’
      • ‘Evan sat in a little corner bored, watching the two babies communicate in their funny language of popping bubbles of dribble, giggling and laughter.’
      saliva, spittle, spit, slaver, slobber, drool
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  • 2(in soccer, hockey, and basketball) an act or instance of taking the ball forward with repeated slight touches or bounces.

    • ‘He can score from the inside or the outside, has the ability to handle the basketball and take players off the dribble.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If a player couldn't use the side of the ball to accelerate his dribble, we might never see another layup.’
    • ‘He scored the goal that his play deserved with five minutes left as he finished off a fine dribble through the stretched Strand rearguard.’
    • ‘He did not show any early nerves, scampering off down the left and deceiving Alen Orman not once, but twice with a teasing dribble.’
    • ‘The dribbles, the drives, the slam dunks just don't seem the same.’
    • ‘The club hopes he brings increased accuracy from the perimeter as well as the quickness and ability to make plays off the dribble.’
    • ‘He also can score off the dribble, and that will be a boost to the interior offense.’
    • ‘It also plays down his weaknesses - ballhandling, creating off the dribble, facing the basket and perimeter shooting.’
    • ‘This guy has the whole package: quickness, explosiveness off the dribble, shooting range and creativity.’
    • ‘Under the college rules, the Howardites were allowed to dribble around the court and, as in today's game, shoot at will.’
    • ‘He's an awesome athlete, knows how to play above the rim, and can take any Power Forward off the dribble.’
    • ‘They'd wow fans with fancy dribbles, swift crossovers and slam dunks well above the rim.’
    • ‘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'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 is taking the ball to the basket aggressively and making plays off the dribble for his teammates.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At the same time, fake the dribble by bringing the ball down outside your knee.’


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.