Definition of stumble in English:



  • 1 Trip or momentarily lose one's balance; almost fall.

    ‘her foot caught a shoe and she stumbled’
    • ‘High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you stumble and fall.’
    • ‘Carlo shouted, which caused me to stumble momentarily until I realised it was the name of the song.’
    • ‘The question is whether Novell has momentarily stumbled, or has been more badly hurt than is realised.’
    • ‘After half an hour of watching our skaters stumble, lurch and fall our amusement at the slapstick show waned and my daughter and I took refuge in the café.’
    • ‘Phillip turned to see the boy, no older than thirteen, stumble, and fall hard to his knees on the floor.’
    • ‘By now the little fellow was on his last legs and kept stumbling and falling as he forced himself him to his feet and as a result he was disqualified even though he touched the tape first.’
    • ‘The body tripped and stumbled momentarily but carried on regardless.’
    • ‘As an instinct reaction she hit him back, hard enough to make him stumble to catch his balance.’
    • ‘How she got lost and stumbled in on Andrew's father pulling a silencer back from somebody's head.’
    • ‘A searing cold gale caused Raven to stumble hard, off balance.’
    • ‘He did not, however, hold onto her car as he approached it, or stumble or lose his footing.’
    • ‘But he said he fell badly and stumbled, falling under some pipes several feet away before slipping into the water.’
    • ‘Thus, hunters would only have had to have caused T. rex to trip, stumble, and fall in order to obtain an easy prey.’
    • ‘Thorn ran and thrust the stick into the back of the demon, making him lose his balance, and stumbling.’
    • ‘Unfortunately for us, he never actually falls, just stumbles around for a minute - he's no fun.’
    • ‘I feel as though at any moment I will stumble and fall off the earth.’
    • ‘That way, your bud doesn't have to deal with stumbling or losing his or her balance when the train comes to a bumpy stop.’
    • ‘Mr Brake said he slowed down but the elderly man seemed to stumble, falling forward into the path of the van.’
    • ‘This change in balance caused her to stumble and erupt in a fit of giggles.’
    • ‘But when she began stumbling and losing her balance, she knew something was seriously wrong.’
    trip, trip over, trip up, lose one's balance, lose one's footing, miss one's footing, founder, slip, pitch
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    1. 1.1[with adverbial of direction]Trip repeatedly as one walks.
      ‘his legs still weak, he stumbled after them’
      • ‘He tried to get out of bed and stumbled over the thick carpeting of his penthouse apartment.’
      • ‘My wife, Justine, stumbled over her as she went to wake the children for school.’
      • ‘Eddie fell backwards, stumbling over the edge of the trail, but caught on with one hand, perilously hanging over the precipice.’
      • ‘For two to three hours they stumbled over the shattered remains of the city in silence.’
      • ‘Here we see, five people stumbling their way across the street.’
      • ‘I ran, I stumbled over bodies, fell into ditches and cut and scraped my legs till they were raw.’
      • ‘Three weeks later workers stumbled over a young woman's body in an abandoned football field on the other side of town.’
      • ‘She had not got far, however, when in her haste she stumbled over a stray object and landed on her knees.’
      • ‘As I stumbled over tree roots and stones, the shadows and darkness closed in again.’
      • ‘After mechanically putting the food in her mouth, Jenny barely managed to stumble upstairs and fall into bed.’
      • ‘But the boy had seen it trip, stumble and fall into the road, to be knocked down and killed by an oncoming tractor.’
      • ‘He reeled backwards, losing his footing, stumbling behind one of the buildings.’
      • ‘The second assassin stumbled over a chair on his way inside, cursing to himself.’
      • ‘She picked herself up and stumbled over to the wall, bracing herself against it.’
      • ‘Bringing the play to a rousing climax, he stumbled over to Trina and kissed her bulbous balloon lips.’
      • ‘Both men were blowing hard towards the end of the round when a left hook from Hatton knocked Phillips off balance and he then stumbled to the floor.’
      • ‘Almost too tired to walk, but I stumbled into the living room and fell on the couch.’
      • ‘She sobs on my shoulder and stumbles up the last few steps.’
      • ‘A short, elderly woman of unsurpassed hideosity came upon them - or rather, stumbled over them.’
      • ‘Marsden said he stumbled over and landed on a knife which he picked up.’
      stagger, totter, teeter, dodder, lurch, lumber, blunder, reel, flounder, bumble, shamble, hobble, wobble, move clumsily
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    2. 1.2Make a mistake or repeated mistakes in speaking.
      ‘she stumbled over the words’
      • ‘Her mind stumbled over the words, still not quite awake enough to think straight.’
      • ‘He said his lines with snaky smoothness, and I stumbled over mine with angry uncertainty.’
      • ‘I stumbled over my mumbled responses, trying to form questions I knew needed asking.’
      • ‘She stumbled over her words as her cheeks flushed a dark pink of embarrassment.’
      • ‘He stumbled over his instructions, trying to keep his eyes stern and controlling.’
      • ‘However, when he came to examine capitalist society he stumbled over the question of profit.’
      • ‘If she stumbled over our Australian slang, we either cut it or rewrote it.’
      • ‘Despite his knowledge, he was still a bit nervous, and stumbled over his words at times.’
      • ‘Stealth stumbled over her words, so eager was she to get them out.’
      • ‘He is just reading it now, and he stumbled over the opening story as well.’
      • ‘He excitedly stumbled over pronouncing my name and ran up and clutched at my legs.’
      • ‘She stumbled over words as she crossed to the workbench to get the supplies she wanted.’
      • ‘Mary stumbled over her words but try as she might all she could do was mutter useless syllables.’
      stammer, stutter, hesitate, falter, speak haltingly, fumble for words
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    3. 1.3Find or encounter by chance.
      ‘they stumbled across a farmer selling 25 acres’
      • ‘Just turn on the news; there's a good chance you'll stumble upon some type of immigration control debate.’
      • ‘The highlight of three hours of trudging was something I stumbled across by chance.’
      • ‘Almost the whole city does seem to operate in the shadow of the past to some extent; in the centre one is always stumbling upon war memorials, parks and museums.’
      • ‘The subjects for his entry for the Schweppes award were stumbled upon in an entirely chance encounter.’
      • ‘The world is his oyster to discover, as he stumbles on through life towards his future retirement as the ex-leader of the National Party.’
      • ‘To let you know, if you two straw to far from the road there is a chance of you stumbling upon a native of these here parts.’
      • ‘I never thought something was amiss until today when I came across this forum and a chance stumbling on to some related websites.’
      • ‘Quite by chance we had, not so literally this time, stumbled upon one of the most favoured sites in the country for the declining bird.’
      • ‘Yet, occasionally, there is a slim chance that one might stumble upon a small precious preserve where people talk.’
      • ‘‘The chances of us stumbling on one of the top guys are zero,’ he said.’
      • ‘Soon we were stumbling upon a rustic-looking pub with plenty of outdoor tables for eating and drinking, and then we were surrounded by acres of grassland.’
      • ‘He and Nancy stumbled across it by chance as they walked through a boatyard not far from home.’
      • ‘If scientists were working hard on behalf of athletes to boost their performance in this way, who knows what discoveries they might stumble upon.’
      • ‘More than a century later an American research assistant book uncovers the secret after stumbling upon one of the writer's letters.’
      • ‘Chances are you'll stumble on a Michelin-starred restaurant.’
      • ‘During his trip he encounters a series of curious characters and stumbles upon a dark family secret.’
      • ‘Call us selfish, snobbish even, but there's an undeniable delight in stumbling upon something no one else seems to have heard before.’
      • ‘Basically what I did was make this amazing discovery and I stumbled on it quite frankly by accident.’
      • ‘Over Christmas, I had the chance to stumble on a remark by George Orwell on the quality of speeches in the House of Commons in the 1940s.’
      • ‘I mean, the chances of us stumbling on one of these top three or four people is about zero.’
      come across, come upon, chance on, happen on, light on, hit on, come up with
      discover, encounter, find, unearth, uncover, locate, bring to light
      dig up, put one's finger on
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  • 1An act of stumbling.

    • ‘But his occasional stumbles should not erase his efforts to uphold the bygone standards of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.’
    • ‘Ken Duberstein, in these early days of the Bush White House, there seemed to be some conflicting signals being sent, some would call them miscommunications or stumbles.’
    • ‘Every week starts fresh, so do not let your past stumbles affect your future progress!’
    • ‘There's plenty of stumbles in the thing, but they're quick and rare.’
    • ‘Chances gone begging made way for sliced clearances, hacked hoofs, stumbles, bobbles, blocked shots and mis-hit passes.’
    • ‘He also seemed to say that the mix of attacks and stumbles over the last month hasn't hurt Dean, in the sense of eroding his support, but has for the moment at least arrested any further gains.’
    • ‘In her earlier, greater work, someone - in the end, among the disasters and the funny bits and the painful stumbles and everyone crashing out in some way - would have come through smiling.’
    • ‘I'm intrigued with the unexpected twists, turns, stumbles and rebirths that life presents - with the resulting seasoning and forming effects they have on us.’
    • ‘Tung Chee-hwa's stumbles raise doubts about whether he should seek another term as Hong Kong's leader.’
    • ‘After a great start and a couple of major stumbles, Modernism is back in Toronto.’
    • ‘It looks great, aside from the usual low-budget stumbles or the occasional oddly-delivered line or ill-fitting costume.’
    • ‘There have been other stumbles, and that's been part of a problem she has had on the whole issue of Israel, which has compounded itself in this latest mess.’
    • ‘Early stumbles or successes may turn out to be a mere blip in the long run.’
    • ‘It's a movement full of goofy stumbles, miles away from the suavity of Mozart and Classicism.’
    • ‘While I'm not saying that he deserved to die, those last few stumbles of his into the swimming pool now seem strangely satisfying.’
    • ‘They depict a kind of fall from quotidian grace - evoking a realm where spills, stumbles and bumps thwart our schedules, routines and Palm Pilot agendas.’
    • ‘But even the best newspaper operating during what Broder must imagine as the salad days of journalism stumbles.’
    • ‘I speculated in my Hill column on Thursday about why the White House has had this run of stumbles.’
    • ‘There were a couple of minor slips and stumbles, but they really didn't detract from the overall look.’
    • ‘The smiles have been wide indeed down the Fulham Road, despite the recent stumbles against Bolton and Villa.’
    1. 1.1A stumbling walk.
      ‘he parodied my groping stumble across the stage’
      • ‘It's like watching a sober guy walk his drunk friend home; just one stumble and they both hit the sidewalk.’
      • ‘The effort to walk to the cars quickly becomes a stumble as we both loose adrenaline.’
      • ‘Angela quickly recovered from her stumble, and began to limp while walking ahead of him, hoping he wouldn't notice.’
      • ‘But what's a little stumble when you can walk through a lush cloud forest, gawk at howler monkeys and wade in a lake on the floor of a volcanic crater?’
      • ‘At this stage he was correcting himself from a stumble.’
      • ‘A slight stumble going down the risers to leave the stage did not mar the performance at all.’
      • ‘He grinned down at her and walked by her giving her a shove making her stumble.’


Middle English (as a verb): from Old Norse, from the Germanic base of stammer.