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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.


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