v. dab·bled, dab·bling, dab·bles
1. To splash or dip repeatedly in a liquid: The children dabbled their feet in the pool.
2. Archaic To splash or spatter with drops of a liquid: “Then came wand'ring by / A shadow like an angel, with bright hair / Dabbled in blood” (William Shakespeare).
1. To splash liquid gently and playfully.
2. To undertake something superficially or without serious intent: “The restaurant business entails more than … dabbling in interior design” (Andy Birsh).
3. To feed by moving the bill back and forth just below the surface or on the bottom in shallow water. Used of ducks.
[Possibly from Dutch dabbelen, frequentative of dabben, to strike, tap.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
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