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Let's say I am walking down the hall and I step on a bottle or a ball and I lose my balance, or say I am walking down the road and I hit a stone and I drop something I was carrying in my hand.

In both of those scenarios I was momentarily off-balance because of me hitting or knocking over something. Is there any specific verb to describe this action, something similar to slip but I might not fall just lose my balance for a couple of seconds.

  • Off-balance can mean various things. If some of it is happening in your mind then: Disoriented might describe what you're thinking of: made (someone) lose their sense of direction. – dcaswell Sep 7 '13 at 19:31
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Consider misstep (“to step badly or incorrectly”), stumble (“To trip or fall; to walk clumsily”), trip (“To fall over or stumble over an object as a result of striking it with one's foot”), bumble (“To act in an inept, clumsy or inexpert manner; to make mistakes”), and blunder (“To make a clumsy or stupid mistake” and “To move blindly or clumsily”).

  • 1
    Of these five suggestions, I'd say that stumble and trip are almost always good words to use. Misstep is often used more metaphorically ("Flirting too much with the office secretary was a misstep," e.g.); plus, some dictionaries list it as a noun, but not a verb. "Bumble" and "blunder" could be used, but they, too, are often used in other contexts besides one's gait (as in, "he bumbled through the experiment," or, "she blundered through her speech"). That doesn't make them wrong – just less ideal for the general case. – J.R. Sep 7 '13 at 19:36
  • @J.R., when I wrote my answer, the question title was “hitting something unintentionally”, which made it appear that tripping over something was a special case, not the general case, and I thought it reasonable to mention some words more generally applicable. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Sep 8 '13 at 2:29
  • Great point. I changed the title because I usually don't think of "hitting" as being with the feet, but with hands instead. For that reason, it took me a some time to bumble through the question & title to figure out what was being asked. At any rate, just to be clear, I wasn't trying to critique your answer; I was only trying to augment it. – J.R. Sep 8 '13 at 9:30

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