Printable Version
Pronunciation: dri-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, Noun

Meaning: 1. To drip slowly in small amounts. 2. (Sports) To move the ball or puck carefully forward by small blows or, in basketball, by continuously bouncing it on the floor.

Notes: This word is so common, its meaning has been extended several ways. It was first used in soccer in the sense of "moving the ball cautiously" (1860s). The sense of moving a basketball forward by bouncing it continuously reflects the history of the word (1890s), the action of drip, drip, dripping. This sense also clears the way for a personal noun: dribbler.

In Play: The basic sense of this word is No. 1 above: "Harvey meant to play a round of golf that day despite the raindrops he saw dribbling down the window pane." The basketball sense of bouncing may be applied anywhere: "When Harvey teed off, he cut his ball and saw it dribble off into the rough." This word may also be used figuratively in the sense of "moving slowly": "When Hardy Belcher first opened his cafe, customers just dribbled in."

Word History: Today's Good Word is either an old diminutive of the noun drip or frequentative of the verb to drip. Drip is akin to drop and droop. It goes back to PIE dhreu- "fall, drip, droop". With different suffixes this root also went into the making of drizzle and drowse "to grow dull, sluggish", which is used today less often than the adjective derived from it: drowsy. In Middle English dreorig meant "bloody, gory" from dreor "gore". Over the centuries it became today's bloodless dreary.

Dr. Goodword,

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