Etymology
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muddle (v.)

1590s, "destroy the clarity of" (a transferred sense); literal sense ("to bathe in mud") is from c. 1600; perhaps frequentative formation from mud, or from Dutch moddelen "to make (water) muddy," from the same Proto-Germanic source. Sense of "to make muddy" is from 1670s; that of "make confused, bewilder" is recorded by 1680s. Meaning "to bungle" is from 1885. Related: Muddled; muddling.

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muddle (n.)

"intellectual confusion, bewilderment," 1818, from muddle (v.).

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muddle-headed (adj.)

"confused; stupid," 1759; see muddle (v) + head (n.).

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bemuse (v.)
"to make utterly confused, put into muse or reverie, muddle, stupefy," from be- + muse (compare amuse); attested from 1735 but probably older, as Pope (1705) punned on it as "devoted utterly to the Muses."
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mash (n.)

"soft mixture, mass of ingredients beaten or stirred together," late Old English *masc (in masc-wyrt "mash-wort, infused malt"), from Proto-Germanic *maisk- (source also of Swedish mäsk "grains for pigs," German Maisch "crushed grapes, infused malt," Old English meox "dung, filth"), possibly from PIE root *meik- "to mix."

Originally a word in brewing; general sense of "anything reduced to a soft pulpy consistency" is recorded from 1590s, as is the figurative sense "confused mixture, muddle." Short for mashed potatoes it is attested from 1904.

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screech (v.)

"cry out with a sharp, shrill voice," 1570s, an alteration of scritch (mid-13c., schrichen), perhaps a general Germanic word (compare Old Frisian skrichta, Muddle Dutch schrien), probably ultimately of imitative origin (compare shriek). Also compare screak, "utter a shrill, harsh cry," c. 1500, from Old Norse skrækja, also probably echoic. Related: Screeched; screeching.

Of wagon-wheels, door-hinges, etc., "make a shrill, grating sound," 1560s. Screech-owl is attested from 1590s (scritch-owl is from 1520s) in reference to the barn-owl; in the U.S. the term is applied to small horned owls. The name is given to owls that "screech" as distinguished from ones that hoot. The cry was regarded as ominous.

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scramble (v.)

1580s (intransitive), "make one's way by clambering, etc., struggle or wriggle along," also "strive with others or jostle and grasp rudely for a share or for mastery;" a word of obscure origin, perhaps a nasalized variant of scrabble (v.) "to struggle; to scrape quickly." OED points to dialectal scramb "pull together with the hands," a variant of scramp, which is probably a nasalized form of scrape.

Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a school, ... a real, honest, old fashioned boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. [Jane Austen, "Emma"]

The transitive sense of "to stir or toss together randomly, cause to move confusedly" is from 1822. The transitive sense, in reference to radio signals, telephone voices, etc., "to make unintelligible," is attested from 1927, hence generally "to jumble, muddle." In U.S. football, in reference to a quarterback avoiding tacklers, by 1964. Related: Scrambled; scrambling. Scrambled eggs, broken into a pan, mixed with butter, salt, pepper, etc., and cooked slowly,is by 1843.

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