v. scrab·bled, scrab·bling, scrab·bles
1. To scrape or grope about frenetically with the hands or paws: "They often scrabbled through kitchen drawers looking for coins to buy bread" (Steve Friedman).
2. To move or climb with scrambling, disorderly haste: scrabbled down the rocks to the water.
3. To struggle or work hard in a disorderly or desperate fashion: "For quite some time I scrabbled around, playing the piano at jazz bars, doing whatever ... journalism I could get" (Frank Conroy).
4. To write hastily or make disordered markings; scribble.
1. To make or obtain by frenetic or desperate action: scrabble a living from soil depleted of nutrients.
a. To scrape or scratch (a surface): "Tubal got him a pointed rod / And scrabbled the earth for corn" (Rudyard Kipling).
b. To move or arrange hastily with the hands: "The next flat tombstone was covered with leaves. I scrabbled the dust away" (Ray Bradbury).
3. To scribble or write down hastily: scrabbled the answer on a sheet of paper.
1. The act or an instance of scrabbling.
2. A scribble; a doodle.
[Dutch schrabbelen, from Middle Dutch, frequentative of schrabben, to scrape; see sker-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 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:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.