verb (used without object), dab·bled, dab·bling.
- to play and splash in or as if in water, especially with the hands.
- to work at anything in an irregular or superficial manner: to dabble in literature.
- (of a duck) to feed on shallow-water vegetation with rapid, splashing movements of the bill.
verb (used with object), dab·bled, dab·bling.
- to wet slightly in or with a liquid; splash; spatter.
- Chiefly South Midland U.S. to wash or rinse off lightly.
- to dip, move, or splash (the fingers, feet, etc) in a liquid
- (intr; usually foll by in, with, or at) to deal (with) or work (at) frivolously or superficially; play (at)
- (tr) to daub, mottle, splash, or smearhis face was dabbled with paint
1550s, probably a frequentative of dab. Original meaning was “wet by splashing;” modern figurative sense of “do superficially” first recorded 1620s. Related: Dabbled; dabbling. An Ellen Dablewife is in the Lancashire Inquests from 1336.