Meaning of muddle in English:


Pronunciation /ˈmʌd(ə)l/

See synonyms for muddle

Translate muddle into Spanish


[with object]
  • 1Bring into a disordered or confusing state.

    ‘I fear he may have muddled the message’
    • ‘Getting into that whole cluster would become very confusing quickly, since we've got overlapping issues, aside from Vietnam muddling up the mix.’
    • ‘I had even put in soft lenses, which always hurt so badly, so that I didn't have to have glasses muddling up my face.’
    • ‘The two teams certainly entered into the seasonal spirit, if a little confusion muddled the role-playing.’
    • ‘In trying to explain the complex mythological system of the show, all the creators have done is muddle an already chaotic mess.’
    • ‘The tale is muddled in its telling, with a clutter of secondary characters.’
    • ‘‘This cannot be, you died,’ she said in a small voice, confusion muddling her face.’
    • ‘The Commerce Committee, even though it refrained from making a recommendation, has pointed out that the passage of this law would just add confusion to an already muddled area.’
    • ‘However, I do not want to further muddle an already confusing issue with what, for most of us, are technicalities.’
    • ‘Time is indeed of the essence: the wall is muddling the USA's ‘Roadmap,’ and organized resistance has begun.’
    • ‘His efforts are in vain, however, as he only succeeds in muddling the central story while completely disengaging us from the characters on the screen.’
    • ‘To continue to seek bipartisan consensus on legislation muddles the debate and squanders an opportunity to create a record of difference between the parties for 2002 and 2004.’
    • ‘The problem here is the same as it's always been: too many conflicting backstories for the character either muddles the plot along the way, or it mucks up the ending [guess which one we're at now].’
    • ‘I felt that this muddles the clarity of what they are both trying to say.’
    • ‘What is especially disappointing is that the whole election is in danger of becoming just another popularity contest, as many of the candidates have muddled their stances beyond recognition.’
    • ‘Unfortunately their findings were muddled in a story last week on the BBC News Online website - an error pounced on by politicians anxious to defend an important Scottish industry.’
    • ‘I wonder if you could clarify for our viewers in the United States and around the world exactly what your position is because it's sort of been muddled by various reports.’
    • ‘He might have got it slightly muddled up from time to time, but he always knew.’
    • ‘We believe it has got it all hopelessly muddled; it is unlikely to agree.’
    • ‘Ridley's erudition, for me, often muddles his message.’
    • ‘Further muddling the message is what's included in the bonus materials.’
    • ‘But by using hyperbole and muddling the difference between repressive regimes and the imperfections of democracy, Amnesty's spokesmen put its authority at risk.’
    • ‘This confusion muddles a key point about contemporary American life.’
    jumbled, in a jumble, in a muddle, in a mess, chaotic, in disorder, in disarray, topsy-turvy, disorganized, disordered, disorderly, out of place, out of order, mixed up, upside-down, at sixes and sevens, untidy, messy, scrambled, tangled
    confuse, mix up, jumble, jumble up, disarrange, disorganize, disorder, disturb, throw into disorder, get into a tangle, scramble, mess up
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Confuse (a person or their thoughts)
      ‘Paul was hopelessly muddled by the rates of exchange’
      • ‘When I made my witness statement I was muddled in the accounts which I gave in paragraph 6 and paragraph 8.’
      • ‘I'm just following my somewhat muddled thoughts where they take me.’
      • ‘Although he is clear about the present nature of barbarism, he is rather muddled about his conception of socialism.’
      • ‘Paul snapped to attention, Tessa muddling his thoughts.’
      • ‘She shook her head, the strange conversation muddling her thoughts.’
      • ‘He was still muddled in his thoughts when the servants took away the last course - mostly untouched, as the silence and sobriety had damaged everyone's appetite.’
      • ‘His thoughts were muddled with emotions, and he wasn't sure of anything.’
      • ‘I was so muddled at the thought that he had almost kissed me that the words never registered.’
      • ‘Mechanics is mathematicians trying to be physicists, but not quite managing it and just muddling me.’
      • ‘I had taken in too many impressions; too many thoughts muddled my mind.’
      • ‘The problem with this definition of expectations is that it muddles customers' judgments and their estimates of probability.’
      • ‘You sensed it all along, but the knowledge was hopelessly muddled by the inherent drive to author new life.’
      • ‘As an essayist, he's often contradictory and more than a bit muddled.’
      • ‘I had taken in too many impressions; too many thoughts muddled my mind.’
      • ‘All this action does is muddle the faithful and bring the faith into needless disrepute.’
      • ‘My more muddled position is that bringing Paine's words and ideas into our world is like trying to plant cut flowers.’
      • ‘I cursed my hormonal body for muddling up my thinking.’
      • ‘Must have been the oncoming cold muddling my brain.’
      • ‘Many rabid political partisans are so thin-skinned that any unfavorable truth about their heroes muddles their thinking.’
      confused, in a state of confusion, bewildered, bemused, perplexed, disorientated, disoriented, at sea, in a muddle, befuddled, dazed
      incoherent, confused, muddle-headed, woolly, jumbled, disjointed
      bewilder, confuse, bemuse, perplex, puzzle, baffle, nonplus, mystify, confound, disorientate, disorient, befuddle, daze, addle
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2no object, with adverbial Busy oneself in an aimless or ineffective way.
      ‘he was muddling about in the kitchen’
      • ‘After muddling around for a few days, he comes out fully in favor of the government's position and vows to endorse whatever the government proposes in relation to boat people.’
      • ‘For a number of years I've been muddling in the mire of trying to figure out who and what I am in relation to church, denomination, God etc.’
      • ‘I'm just muddling around here like an ant in a potplant, not always realizing there are larger things out there than my little world.’
      • ‘In fact, the Penguins muddled to a sixth place finish in the regular season standings with a .500 record to become one of eight playoff qualifiers.’
      • ‘That would preclude idiots from muddling around in areas they have no knowledge of.’
      • ‘Although a problem in computer ethics may seem clear initially, a little reflection reveals a conceptual muddle.’
  • 2Mix (a drink) or stir (an ingredient) into a drink.

    ‘muddle the kiwi slices with the sugar’
    • ‘Place the mint, tangerine, lime juice and syrup in a shaker tin, muddle all ingredients together.’
    • ‘Requiring your bartenders to cut the lemons and muddle them in front of the customer each time a drink is ordered is too arduous.’
    • ‘In a mixing glass, moderately muddle syrup, bitters, mint, orange and lime together.’
    • ‘In a shaker, muddle the ginger, add the others, plus ice.’
    • ‘Instead of lime and sugar, we muddle oranges into the glass and use an orange syrup with the Bacardi.’
    • ‘Your barmen know how to muddle a mean Mojito, and house DJs pump out loud and happy vibes until late.’
    • ‘Using a citrus reamer, muddle the leaves until they are dark green and pasty; the total volume should reduce by about half, and they should have released quite a bit of liquid.’
    • ‘In a bar glass, muddle the kiwi slices with the sugar.’
    • ‘World class bar staff mix and muddle a variety of concoctions, from herb-infused cosmopolitans to fresh fruit Martinis.’
    • ‘The finest leaves get muddled for the drink; imperfect leaves go into a simple syrup.’
    • ‘Remember, showmanship behind the bar is a very important aspect of the job, and muddling provides bartenders a great chance to prove their worth.’
    • ‘The Ginger and Pear Martini combines pear-infused gin with fresh ginger muddled with Frangelico and simple syrup.’
    • ‘Soak with bitters and gently muddle with a spoon.’
    • ‘Try the Opium Martini special: fresh root ginger muddled with homemade coriander syrup and shaken with a double shot of vodka.’
    mix, blend, agitate
    View synonyms


usually in singular
  • 1An untidy and disorganized state or collection.

    ‘the finances were in a muddle’
    • ‘she was able to cut through confusion and muddle’
    • ‘Even if, like me, you think the polls are often in a muddle, they do tell a consistent story on economic management.’
    • ‘She dares us to dress down, to strip ourselves of our illusions and to acknowledge that, for most of the time, we live life in a muddle and ‘that every hour contains at least a moment of bewilderment or worse’.’
    • ‘He says: ‘Ordinary events got Jennings in a muddle and we can identify with these.’’
    • ‘After all, a similar impetus fuelled the expansion of the public libraries and made them what they were before they lost their way in a muddle of video tapes, CDs and computer programs.’
    • ‘Willy-nilly and no doubt unwillingly, he is then drawn into the fight; in an instant the man in the middle has become the man in a muddle and nothing at all has been achieved.’
    • ‘I've had flu since Friday, in a muddle of tissues and lying down, drowsily watching DVDs, and no appetite.’
    • ‘Talking through teeth gritted against the gelid wind, we converse in a muddle of French, English and Arabic.’
    • ‘But Mr Ekins said he thought the Government's transport policy was in a muddle.’
    • ‘What often becomes shockingly obvious is that the garden is in a muddle.’
    • ‘At times it thinks it's a caper movie/thriller and on other occasions it wants to be seen as a comedy, but since it never commits to either approach, it ends up in a muddle.’
    • ‘Still, I certainly and completely understand why you're all in a muddle.’
    • ‘They'll quickly realise that their things can't be found in a muddle, or that clothes don't walk to the washing machine on their own.’
    • ‘If we attempt to separate these two according to outer procedures we shall end in a muddle.’
    • ‘But the situation is, frankly, in a muddle right now.’
    • ‘Buffy moved away from him, her thoughts all in a muddle.’
    • ‘It is possible, as with most muddles in the world, that the answer lies in history.’
    • ‘Our patient is crowned king and expected to sort out this delightfully convoluted muddle.’
    • ‘In other hands it would dissolve into a hopeless muddle of ideas.’
    • ‘Henry got himself into a hopeless muddle about his sublet offices.’
    • ‘He'd assembled a Catalogue of Printed Books at Middle Hill, but it seemed a hopeless muddle.’
    untidiness, disorder, disarray, clutter, heap, shambles, litter, tangle, jumble, muddle, mishmash, chaos, confusion, disorganization, turmoil
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A mistake arising from or resulting in confusion.
      ‘a bureaucratic muddle’
      • ‘Despite the muddles of his campaign, his message won him nearly 49% of the votes.’
      • ‘Here in India, especially in relatively small cities like Dehra Doon, it feels like half magic a lot of the time and the only way to live through the muddles is to be determined to find them funny.’
      • ‘The four great battles of Cassino brought to a head all the muddles and contradictions of the Italian campaign.’
      • ‘Fast-moving fun for younger viewers, centring on Lizzie Forbes, whose overworked imagination often embroils her in misunderstandings, muddles and miscellaneous mayhem.’
      • ‘But the bureaucratic muddle began after ministers farmed the project out to the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities, the umbrella body for councils.’
      • ‘Where does this leave a poet who writes in his own muddles, creates his own errata?’
      • ‘True, there were muddles and ostrich-like behaviour.’
      • ‘Somehow, expenses muddles are tolerated in the Commons, where it is considered rather indecent to question what members do with their cash.’
      • ‘Most of them were muddles, rather than deliberately murderous delinquencies.’
      • ‘She recently had a call from an ex-foster child who said, ‘I've rung to talk to you about my worries and muddles because I could always talk to you.’’
      • ‘The mayor is willing to get right in the middle of a bureaucratic muddle - to wade right in and say no to people.’
      • ‘Apart from my methodological muddles, what should we make of the oscillations in fossil diversity?’
      • ‘Small firms are choking to death in a planning process increasingly marked by bureaucratic muddle and delay.’
      • ‘It was all well intentioned but that's the old muddle.’
      • ‘Firstly, she sorted out a problem I referred to her about muddles with my mum's pension credit.’
      • ‘Shaw, to give him his credit, is trying to sort the muddle out.’
      • ‘Npower has now sorted out the muddle, apologised to you and sent you a goodwill payment.’
      • ‘The whole affair was, he insisted, a "muddle rather than a fiddle".’
      bungle, mix-up, misunderstanding, mistake
      View synonyms

Phrasal Verbs

    muddle through
    • Cope in a more or less satisfactory way despite lack of expertise, planning, or equipment.

      ‘while the children were young, we managed to muddle through’
      • ‘‘We just manage to muddle through but it's a bit of a strain over seven weeks,’ says Kenny Kingshott.’
      • ‘However, I have enough faith in the inherent common sense of the human race to believe that we will, as ever, just manage to muddle through.’
      • ‘But generally - and I say this knowing full well that I am tempting every fate known to man - we have managed to muddle along quite well.’
      • ‘Yet somehow I have managed to muddle through and have not done too badly out of life.’
      • ‘Restructuring will be disruptive for the top management of the industry, but it cannot afford to muddle along any longer.’
      • ‘‘They are experts, but we just muddle along,’ said Mr Cross.’
      • ‘I noticed this morning that London Bridge station, after years of muddling through without a logo, has gained one.’
      • ‘Both have their own special charm, but whereas Paris is all about order, London is all about muddling through.’
      • ‘My brain is frantically muddling through, trying to make sense of what's happening to me.’
      • ‘Those of us who'd been happily muddling along for years and years were faced with a ‘for us or against us’ ultimatum from the more political of our younger brothers and sisters.’
      • ‘So there you are, muddling along with your new bog-standard toaster, when you get a surprise gift of a top-of-the-range model.’
      • ‘Y'know you're just muddling along in a better-than-average indie band and suddenly you're proclaimed the saviours of rock-and-roll.’
      • ‘It was not a particularly happy union, though they muddled along in the end.’
      • ‘When I left my husband I knew it would be tough and I told myself we'd have to muddle through.’
      • ‘All this makes for some short-term optimism, and even a feeling that we may somehow muddle through - but the longer-term odds are a different matter.’
      • ‘We can be Asian Welsh, Afro-Caribbean Scottish, Pakistani English, and all somehow muddle through together.’
      • ‘All too often, gifted children have to muddle through.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, there's no hard and fast guidelines for us to follow - we just have to muddle through, minds fogged by desire.’
      • ‘Under the present law there are several options, the least effective of which is to do nothing and hope those affected can muddle through.’
      • ‘There was I, muddling blithely along, thinking that give and take would get me and my Other Half through those rare, but bracing episodes of discord Americans refer to as ‘learning experiences’.’
    muddle up
    • 1Bring something into a disordered or confusing state.

      • ‘they were muddling up the cards’
      1. 1.1Confuse two or more things with each other.
        ‘at the time, archaeology was commonly muddled up with palaeontology’
        • ‘the words seemed to have got muddled up’
        • ‘Thus, the matter is muddled up as a manager-employee conflict instead of a pure freedom of expression issue.’
        • ‘I think a lot of people muddle celebrities up with soaps.’
        • ‘He'll muddle it up; which is the illusion and which is real life?’
        • ‘Members of the community with intellectual disabilities will be thrilled about this bill, because they have always felt they are muddled up with people with mental ill-health.’
        • ‘Mr Smith was dyslexic as a youngster and he used to muddle words up; he may have misunderstood matters.’
        • ‘"She has a sharp mind but can sometimes get her priorities muddled up.’
        • ‘No one could possibly object, for example, if marks were deducted for failing to remember the poem, or for muddling up the verses, or for serious errors of pronunciation.’
        • ‘Meanwhile, an amusing apology from the Star Tribune for muddling up ‘profligate’ and ‘prolific’.’
        • ‘That's another kettle of fish entirely and I despair of physicians and others who confuse and muddle invalidity and melancholy as being one and the same thing.’
        • ‘Sadly, that doesn't stop the objectors muddling fact and fiction, as if their main source were Frankenstein, which was a novel written in the 19th century, of all the far away places.’
        • ‘This tension in the bill comes from it muddling the issue of compensating prisoners for unlawful treatment by the crown with compensating their victims for pain and suffering.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘wallow in mud’): perhaps from Middle Dutch moddelen, frequentative of modden ‘dabble in mud’; compare with mud. The sense ‘confuse’ was initially associated with alcoholic drink (late 17th century), giving rise to ‘busy oneself in a confused way’ and ‘jumble up’ (mid 19th century).