Definition of muddle in English:


Pronunciation /ˈmədl/

Translate muddle into Spanish

transitive verb

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

    • ‘I fear he may have muddled the message’
    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
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    1. 1.1Confuse (a person or their thoughts)
      • ‘Paul was hopelessly muddled by the rates of exchange’
      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
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    2. 1.2no object, with adverbial Busy oneself in an aimless or ineffective way.
      • ‘he was muddling about in the kitchen’
  • 2Mix (a drink) or stir (an ingredient) into a drink.

    • ‘muddle the kiwi slices with the sugar’
    mix, blend, agitate
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usually in singular
  • 1An untidy and disorganized state or collection.

    ‘the finances were in a muddle’
    • ‘a muddle of French, English, Ojibwa, and a dash of Gaelic’
    • ‘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
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    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
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Phrasal Verbs

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

      ‘we don't have an ultimate ambition; we just 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 paleontology’
        • ‘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).