Skip to main content


tum·ble / ˈtəmbəl/ • v. 1. [intr.] (typically of a person) fall suddenly, clumsily, or headlong: she pitched forward, tumbling down the remaining stairs. ∎  move or rush in a headlong or uncontrolled way: police and dogs tumbled from the vehicle. ∎  (of something abstract) fall rapidly in amount or value: property prices tumbled. ∎  [tr.] rumple; disarrange: [as adj.] (tumbled) his tumbled bedclothes. ∎  [tr.] inf. have sexual intercourse with (someone). 2. Brit. [intr.] (tumble to) inf. understand the meaning or hidden implication of (a situation): she tumbled to our scam. 3. [intr.] perform acrobatic or gymnastic exercises, typically handsprings and somersaults in the air. ∎  (of tumbler pigeons) repeatedly turn over backward in flight. 4. [tr.] clean (castings, gemstones, etc.) in a tumbling barrel. • n. 1. a sudden or headlong fall: I took a tumble in the nettles. ∎  a rapid fall in amount or value: a tumble in share prices. ∎  an untidy or confused arrangement or state: her hair was a tumble of untamed curls. ∎ inf. an act of sexual intercourse. ∎  a handspring, somersault in the air, or other acrobatic feat. 2. inf. a friendly sign of recognition, acknowledgment, or interest: not a soul gave him a tumble. ORIGIN: Middle English (as a verb, also in the sense ‘dance with contortions’): from Middle Low German tummelen; compare with Old English tumbian ‘to dance.’ The sense was probably influenced by Old French tomber ‘to fall.’ The noun, first in the sense ‘tangled mass,’ dates from the mid 17th cent.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"tumble." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 23 Aug. 2019 <>.

"tumble." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . (August 23, 2019).

"tumble." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.