I usually see these two words used together as in "hustle and bustle". I consider them as synonyms but I would like to know that do they have any differences.

Then I looked up "bustle" in Merriam-Webster dictionary and found the definition as follow:

1: to move briskly and often ostentatiously

//bustled around the kitchen

I'm a little surprised to see the word "ostentatiously" here. I've never known "bustle" has this connotation. Does the definition with "ostentatiously" make sense? What is the difference between bustle and hustle?

Updated: there is a line in Central Park (TV series), which is as follows:

... a place that all the bustle seems to pass.

Is it correct if I say "a place that all the hustle seems to pass"?

  • Though "hustle and bustle" is an idiom with meaning not entirely the same as just the meanings of its words.
    – aschepler
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


I agree that "ostentatious" is a rather odd word to use in this definition. What I think the dictionary writer is saying is that "to bustle" means to be busy and active in a way that makes it clear to other people that you are being busy. It often suggests that you are rather noisily busy: The person "bustling around the kitchen" suggests that they are perhaps banging pots as they move them around, or talking to themselves.

"Hustle" as a verb is rather different. It means "push" or "shove" or "shake", perhaps as part of a crowd. It also means to push to sell your goods, or to trick/swindle. In AmE, hustle can meaning actively pushing to achieve a result in a sports match.

He hustled me onto the boat.

He hustled people to buy his snake oil.

As a noun, they can mean the same, but usually in combination "The hustle and bustle". On its own, "a hustle" is a confidence trick. In the sporting sense it means "the effort to win".

Show some hustle!!

  • Another use for "hustle" is a colloquial use similar to "to bustle": A sports coach might encourage her team to "hustle", i.e. to be busily and assertively active. The slight distinction might be that "to bustle" implies being more active than is warranted, to be active for the sake of being active, while "to hustle" emphasizes having a goal in view. It can even be used as a noun by association with this meaning: "You showed some good hustle out there." Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 22:08
  • That is a particular AmE meaning, but I'll add it. I think it suggests "pushing for a result" not just being busy.
    – James K
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 22:23

Bustle is ostentatious in the sense of 'puffed up' (like the bustle garment), meaning making sure that others are fully aware of your position, prestige and purpose; showing off somewhat to impress or put someone in their place. Possibly this sense comes from the older meaning (busy) along lines of being overtly busy in a showy kind of way.

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