Definition of scuffle in US English:



  • 1A short, confused fight or struggle at close quarters.

    ‘there were minor scuffles with police’
    • ‘It is common for the great ones of this world to travel incognito, call it a game they play with all of us, laughing and finding amusement in our trivial scuffles and problems.’
    • ‘But following violent scuffles on the floor of the House, the bill was dropped.’
    • ‘Evidence of past scuffles showed in the extra solid nature of the tables and chairs, and the lack of anything breakable not far enough behind the bar to be out of the reach of possible combatants.’
    • ‘Our first few scuffles ended in a lot of pain for me, but as I started to pay attention in unarmed combat class I began to do some damage myself.’
    • ‘Out of all the fights, all the scuffles and tussles, this was the only one that mattered.’
    • ‘A few scuffles with the law culminated in a year of jail time.’
    • ‘Button mashing your way through little scuffles feels strangely satisfying since most games of this type don't allow you to get your hands dirty.’
    • ‘She loved his kindness and his silliness, though she was a little unnerved by his desire to get into scuffles.’
    • ‘Gregory now knows enough to defend himself in small scuffles, and has recently tried to use his moves on me.’
    • ‘Soon, scuffles broke out, spears were thrown, and muskets discharged.’
    fight, struggle, tussle, brawl, fracas, rumpus, melee, free-for-all, rough and tumble, scrimmage, disturbance, brouhaha, commotion
    View synonyms
  • 2An act or sound of moving in a hurried, confused, or shuffling manner.

    ‘he heard the scuffle of feet’
    • ‘A series of scuffles and bangs sounded from within the gloom and even Marlo winced once when something heavy fell, smashed and Atoshi squeaked pathetically.’
    • ‘Almost as soon as he had done so, there were sounds of scuffles, all around him - Elfazar was able to move like lightning when he merged with the shadows, moving quickly to one demon, dealing with him, then moving to another.’


[no object]
  • 1Engage in a short, confused fight or struggle at close quarters.

    ‘the teacher noticed two students scuffling in the corridor’
    • ‘Full of goat's meat, they devoted themselves to wine, threw dice, quarreled and scuffled.’
    • ‘He and Tino had even scuffled on occasion, always over women.’
    • ‘Two campers are scuffling with each other off to one side.’
    • ‘Outside the hotel where the auction took place Tuesday, several protesters scuffled with security guards when they tried to push into the ballroom to block the sales.’
    • ‘The inevitability of globalization was evident even to the demonstrators who scuffled with armed Swiss national police units in seeking to disrupt the proceedings.’
    • ‘When I last saw Jose, he was living in a West Side Manhattan housing project, scuffling for diminishing gigs.’
    fight, struggle, tussle, exchange blows, come to blows, brawl, grapple, clash, scrimmage
    View synonyms
  • 2with adverbial of direction Move in a hurried, confused, or awkward way, making a rustling or shuffling sound.

    ‘a drenched woman scuffled through the doorway’
    • ‘They scuffled and banged around downstairs for a few minutes, but then they were gone.’
    • ‘The hem of the elf's blue robes swished around her feet as they scuffled across the marble.’
    • ‘There was a scuffling and two of the employees ran off in the same direction, Angel stood and waited patiently, but felt all of the establishment's eyes upon her.’
    • ‘Gabe was busy putting on all his weapons and wouldn't even look at me, so I grudgingly got up and scuffled over the carpet.’
    • ‘Once, I heard something scuffling inside one of the forbidden rooms, as if a cat or other animal was scratching their paws over the walls.’
    • ‘Cole scuffled over, his hands in his pockets and his eyes downcast.’
    • ‘The owls hooted as they hid in the darkness of the sycamores which in turn murmurs among them, the occasional scuffling of a hedgehog was heard and the sequel of a mouse caught by a fox.’
    • ‘It seemed to be mid autumn, and golden leaves flew through the air as she scuffled along.’
    • ‘When the first rays of the sun hit her, she got up and scuffled away from them, as if they would melt her.’
    • ‘I heard a scuffling from the corner of the room, underneath Emily's desk.’
    • ‘Then, having lost her nerve already by her mother's harsh words, she scuffled back towards the exit in retreat.’
    • ‘Boots scuffled outside her door and Jedidah was quick to place a chair before the door.’
    • ‘Dancers slathered their bodies with paint and scuffled in sand on the floor.’
    • ‘To complete the afternoon, I heard a scuffling downstream followed by a squeal.’
    • ‘Outside her room, her sister, Sabrina, scuffled into the bathroom bleary eyed.’
    • ‘The scuffling of boots and the softer clip-clop of a woman's heels brought his thoughts from Caroline.’
    • ‘He didn't hear anymore scuffling of feet, clothing moving, no shadows, not even the sound of breathing.’
    • ‘All that scuffling, all the muffled cries, and nothing.’
    • ‘I scuffled upstairs and rooted through my closet for the right outfit, knowing David would have a field day at my dilemma.’
    1. 2.1with object (of an animal or person) move (something) in a scrambling or confused manner.
      ‘the rabbit struggled free, scuffling his front paws’
      • ‘A single man stands like a bird-watcher, and scuffles the pepper and salt snow from a discarded, grey Westinghouse Electric cable drum.’
      • ‘Standing on her sore feet, Lily groaned as she scuffled her feet to the chair in the corner.’


Late 16th century (as a verb): probably of Scandinavian origin; compare with Swedish skuffa ‘to push’; related to shove and shuffle.