Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To speak in a faltering manner.
  • intransitive v. To move, act, or proceed clumsily. See Synonyms at blunder.
  • transitive v. To bungle; botch.
  • intransitive v. To make a humming or droning sound; buzz.
  • n. A humming or droning sound; a buzz.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A confusion, jumble.
  • v. To act in an inept, clumsy or inexpert manner; to make mistakes.
  • n. A bumble-bee.
  • n. The bittern.
  • v. To boom, as a bittern; to buzz, as a fly.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The bittern.
  • intransitive v. To make a hollow or humming noise, like that of a bumblebee; to buzz; to cry as a bittern.
  • intransitive v. to act ineptly or without clear understanding of what one is doing; to blunder; to stumble about; -- sometimes used with around.
  • transitive v. to bungle (a task).

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To make a humming noise; boom; cry like a bittern.
  • To make a splash in the sea.
  • To scold.
  • To start off quickly.
  • n. A bittern, Botaurus stellaris.
  • n. A bumblebee. Also bombell, bummle.
  • n. A jumble or confused heap; confusion.
  • n. An awkward person.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. speak haltingly
  • v. make a mess of, destroy or ruin
  • v. walk unsteadily

Etymologies

Perhaps blend of bungle and stumble.
Middle English bomblen, of imitative origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
(onomatopoeia). Compare bungle, jumble, and fumble. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Russian espionage of what the British call bumble and cock-up.

    Yahoo! News: Top Stories

  • For some species, such as bumble bees, this is the source of many of the males in the species.

    December 4th, 2006

  • When you size up a bunch of aldermen or a new legislature, just remember the simple little fact of natural history that a "bumble" bee is always biggest right after it's hatched.

    Tattlings of a Retired Politician

  • There's nothing I know of that loses so much of size in the seasoning process as a politician -- excepting a "bumble" bee and a basswood log.

    Tattlings of a Retired Politician

  • But, to go back to the "bumble" bee proposition: I've broken up enough nests in the old south meadow, when I was a boy, to prevent me from seeing out of both eyes for a week; but the lessons I learned while nursing my stings have stood me in good stead in many a campaign.

    Tattlings of a Retired Politician

  • Your story about Kite Hendee puts me in mind of a little chapter in the gentle art of grafting that bears right on this "bumble" bee point and is worth remembering.

    Tattlings of a Retired Politician

  • And a large "bumble," with a sting as pitiless as the finger of scorn, just then climbed up the inside of Mr. Middlerib's nightshirt, until it got squarely between his shoulders, and then it felt for his marrow, and he said calmly:

    Masterpieces of American Wit and Humor

  • She had the responsibility and honor of driving Ruth and the dolls in her own donkey-cart to the scene of action, where the school children, and some of the idlest or most good-natured of Mrs. Alwynn's friends, were even then assembling, and where Mrs. Alwynn herself was already dashing from point to point, buzzing like a large "bumble" bee.

    The Danvers Jewels, and Sir Charles Danvers

  • How soothing to a spirit tired of the city's din is this solitude, broken only by the singing of the birds and the drowsy droning of the bee, erroneously termed 'bumble'!

    In the Midst of Alarms

  • But for the last two days it has been the great wild bee, the humble-bee, or "bumble," as the children call him.

    Specimen Days; from Complete Poetry and Collected Prose

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.