Definition of scrabble in US English:

scrabble

verb

[no object]
  • 1Scratch or grope around with one's fingers to find, collect, or hold on to something.

    ‘she scrabbled at the grassy slope, desperate for a firm grip’
    • ‘He jerked himself free from his own seatbelt and threw himself towards her window, scrabbling to get a hold on her.’
    • ‘The tiny knots of the branch dug into his neck as Merlin sought to find a purchase with his fingers, scrabbling against the oily branch.’
    • ‘I caused bottlenecks in front of crowded Métro barriers, frantically scrabbling through my satchel for that sad little bag containing my tickets.’
    • ‘‘Sorry’ she mumbled, scrabbling on the floor for her dropped items.’
    • ‘A group of women - made one by the black mystery of their costume - are scrabbling with their bare hands to dig a grave in rocky earth.’
    • ‘He scrabbled to gain a grip on the wall and hold himself up as he breathed in the sweet air like an addict.’
    • ‘After Colette left he cleared his throat and looked through a newspaper, his long fingers scrabbling a bit at the pages.’
    • ‘The boat was tilted almost vertically into the turn, and my fingers scrabbled for purchase in the slippery wood of the deck that I was careening down.’
    • ‘It was pitch black and we were scrabbling around until 1am trying to find them.’
    • ‘She turned to Ian enquiringly, as the boy scrabbled frantically on the floor looking for coins.’
    • ‘Meanwhile I'm scrabbling in the bottom of my bag for coins, and skipping out on dinner because I don't want to spend $7 on soup.’
    • ‘They scrabbled desperately at the rubble with their bear hands for signs of life.’
    • ‘The ladder cracked and he was suddenly unsupported in the darkness, scrabbling with both hands to hold on to timbers, losing his grip and dangling from the rope.’
    • ‘Flinging open a cupboard and desperately scrabbling for some anti-inflammatory cream, I curse myself for positioning it in the most difficult to reach area of the top shelf.’
    • ‘She scrabbled in vain for purchase on the stone floor, which was smooth from the years of pedestrian traffic pounding the irregularities into powder.’
    • ‘His fingers scrabbled over the plastic plating on the door next to him until they curled over the cold metal handle.’
    • ‘Giles tugged desperately at the manacles, his fingers scrabbling upward against the chain dangling them from the ceiling.’
    • ‘I began to scrabble and fumble around on the floor in search of some kind of weapon.’
    • ‘He took his backpack off before lying completely on the floor and furiously scrabbling at the mortar with his fingers.’
    • ‘His fingers scrabbled at the stone and found holds, but not before he dropped a foot.’
    scratch, grope, rummage, root, pole, grub, scavenge, fumble, feel, clamber, scramble
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of an animal) scratch at something with its claws.
      ‘a dog was scrabbling at the door’
      • ‘During the day, he paces up and down and puts his head on her lap; during nocturnal episodes, he barks and scrabbles against the bedroom door.’
      • ‘Both of the pitiful creatures shot away, scrabbling with claws and paws across the floor and out of sight.’
      • ‘The pigeons on the ledge outside scrabbled from side to side, as Catherine tapped at the glass with a fingernail.’
      • ‘He was leaning on the railings, munching a meat pie and watching as the birds scrabbled for the crumbs.’
      • ‘This sunny, summer evening, we are watching small dogs scrabble around on a drab linoleum floor.’
      • ‘Therre was no scratching and scrabbling in the dirt for these birds.’
      • ‘There are several false alarms, but eventually his dogs scrabble madly at the base of a tree.’
      • ‘This one hatched faster than the first, fierce little claws punching through the fragile shell and scrabbling to get free.’
      • ‘Kaiyo's body twisted on the floor, paws scrabbling at the tile, tails flaring as if casting a spell.’
      • ‘We've also had to put some rodent poison up there as something is scrabbling around - we haven't seen it so we don't know what!’
      • ‘When it finished scrabbling, the rat would believe the faeces to be buried.’
      • ‘It may be an idea to have no bare earth for the cats to scrabble in.’
      • ‘Last year one dog had to have two toes amputated after scrabbling insanely at his pen.’
      • ‘‘Look, there's a nuthatch scrabbling on the tree trunk,’ the mother tells the little girl.’
      • ‘For a moment the kitten disappeared, then resurfaced, scrabbling frantically at the treacherous surface that gave no hold.’
      • ‘Birds and other unseen creatures scrabble about in the windswept bushes of central park, but I would rather not deliberate too much about that.’
      • ‘His serenity makes you feel like a clucking chicken, scrabbling and pecking at the dusty ground, while he sits back and watches.’
    2. 1.2with adverbial of direction Scramble or crawl quickly.
      ‘lizards scrabbling across the walls’
      • ‘He rolled off the bed, and on the floor, scrabbling across the room, and into the corner, huddling and shaking.’
      • ‘The cat quickly gives up all pretence of dignity and scrabbles up the fence as fast as it can go, leaving one very disappointed toddler in its wake.’
      • ‘He glanced back to where his wife was having to use her hands sometimes to scrabble up the steep climb, eyes intent on the rock face.’
      • ‘Enter Dad, in flannel pyjamas, scrabbling across the floor on all fours.’
      • ‘He hurled himself at the wall, scrabbling up it on the run.’
      • ‘Suddenly, they all turn and start scrabbling down the path, the sound of a helicopter echoing overhead and sending a cloud of crows whirling into the sky.’
      • ‘At this Enela scrabbled to her feet, rushing for the door and her leave.’
      • ‘Claire quickly scrabbled up the branch, Jarret right behind her.’
      • ‘It was he who broke free first, delivering a hard kick to her stomach as he scrabbled away, his fingers reaching frantically for the hilt of his own knife.’
      • ‘I quickly scrabbled off the floor and ran to the bathroom; stripping off my clothes in a hurry.’
      • ‘I cried scrabbling to my feet and trying to run towards Carl.’
      • ‘‘Remove your hands,’ said Sean in a harsh voice while Sakura quickly scrabbled away and leaned on the wall.’
      • ‘Should he scrabble backwards towards the house?’
      • ‘Boots possessed rather remarkable climbing abilities and thought nothing of scrabbling up the brick wall on the open side of the garage to sit with me.’
      • ‘Stuart moved towards my hunched body, but I scrabbled backwards away from him.’
      • ‘Then seeing the man lunge at her, she screeched and tried to scrabble away towards the garden maze.’
      clamber, climb, crawl, claw one's way, grope one's way
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 Make great efforts to get somewhere or achieve something.
      ‘I had to scrabble around to find this apartment’
      • ‘British Airways, which spent the week scrabbling to avert strike action, was also back under pressure.’
      • ‘The very lucratively paid Canadians are embarrassingly, shamelessly scrabbling for excuses as to why they were well-beaten by a much better team of non-professionals.’
      • ‘In its series of pointed vignettes, the CD pieces together an affecting picture of a generation scrabbling to regain its idealism.’
      • ‘In this context the survivors in the UK electricity market will continue to scrabble for scale.’
      • ‘I bit my trembling lip and twisted a stray lock of coppery hair around my finger as my mind frantically scrabbled for some way out of the problem at hand.’
      • ‘The original moon landing race was a bipolar affair, with America and Russia urgently scrabbling to make space a ‘sphere of influence’.’
      • ‘They have each spent many millions and many months scrabbling around with headhunters trying to find top talent - and all the while investors lost billions as share prices crashed.’
      • ‘Many firms have been scrabbling about to find extra capital - either from parent banks or from the bond market - to prop up solvency ratios.’
      • ‘Already rival ethnic, religious, tribal and clan leaders are scrabbling for a place on the interim administration which will govern the country until free elections are held.’
      • ‘The proof of his invincibility in the big race is that everyone is scrabbling around trying to find a British opponent with any kind of chance of winning.’
      • ‘As back-rows they spent the entire match scrabbling for possession, trying to stop the Wasps juggernaut.’
      • ‘Because it makes us all richer, it enables us to concentrate more on non-material things instead of spending all our time scrabbling for a living.’
      • ‘You wonder how frustrating it must be, still scrabbling to plug holes in low budgets after years of eager critical acclaim?’
      • ‘Still, with the movie ringing up millions in the domestic market, local film-makers are scrabbling to replicate its success.’
      • ‘Countless fans were left scrabbling around for alternative sources after a mysterious, erroneous e-mail was sent out to thousands of subscribers in the UK.’
      • ‘At the time of writing, they are still scrabbling around for no less than half of the necessary funding.’
      • ‘With the tabloids scrabbling for circulation and under pressure to land sensationalist stories, it is not a question of whether that day will arrive, but when.’

noun

  • 1in singular An act of scratching or scrambling for something.

    ‘he heard the scrabble of claws behind him’
    • ‘Light glittering from metal, a scrabble of feet launched it forward, a long blade raised and gleaming like copper.’
    • ‘All was silent except the panting of the Ellingham's and the occasional scrabble at the door.’
    • ‘There was a scrabble of paws and claws on stone, punctuated by a few grunts.’
    • ‘A scrabble sounded behind them and it seemed as though someone had put a blindfold over their eyes.’
    • ‘She had heard the distinct scrabble of rats and was positive she would never be able to rid her clothing of the stench.’
    • ‘She could hear the faint scrabble of feet as mice scurried through the walls.’
    • ‘At one point there was a mad scrabble for the ball and the umpire blew for a bounce.’
    • ‘I made my way up very gingerly and after a slippery scrabble up the last bit, arrived back on the surface, with Alan not far behind.’
    • ‘Late one evening I heard a scrabble on the roof.’
    • ‘There was a tug, a clatter as the leash handle hit the floor, and the rapid scrabble of claws on tile.’
    • ‘She latched onto it and made a scrabble for safety.’
    • ‘There was a scrabble on concrete and she felt hands on her face.’
  • 2trademark A board game in which players use lettered tiles to create words in a crossword fashion.

    • ‘I, on the other hand, will be feeding my face and cleaning the kitchen before heading back up here to play Scrabble.’
    • ‘A few jokes were made about them playing Scrabble on the tour bus.’
    • ‘Everyone in our office is playing email Scrabble.’
    • ‘Several more rounds of speed Scrabble followed with a growing band of enthusiasts.’
    • ‘So, we were playing obscene Scrabble with double points for swear words and cocktail names.’

Origin

Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘make marks at random, scrawl’): from Middle Dutch schrabbelen, frequentative of schrabben ‘to scrape’. The noun sense ‘struggle to achieve something’ is originally a North American usage dating from the late 18th century.

Pronunciation

scrabble

/ˈskrabəl//ˈskræbəl/