from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Chiefly British Slang Disorderly or chaotic: "[The country's] transportation system is in a shambolic state” ( London Sunday Times).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. chaotic, disorganised or mismanaged

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. (British slang) disorderly or chaotic


Probably from alteration of shambles.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
1970.[2] shambles +‎ -ic (“(adjective)”), plus interconsonantal -o-, to avoid /mbl/ consonant cluster. (Wiktionary)



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  • "The pub was empty of all but the most dedicated drinkers, shambolic figures huddled over bottles." From Perdido Street Station by China Mieville.

    September 21, 2011

  • "It’s not hard to see what Banksy saw in this chatty bamboozler, with his shambolic energy, paint-spattered jeans, showstopping displays of humility and racoonish pallor. He is a dead ringer for the young Stanley Kubrick — or maybe a Gallic John Belushi, porkpie hat pushed back jauntily on his head, his heavy-lidded eyes containing just a hint of panic, as if expecting police to arrive any moment and take him away." Source and author of this quote.

    February 27, 2010

  • I had no idea this was specifically British, damnit! Increasingly I'm understanding how little I'm understood.

    April 10, 2008

  • "His manner is not stilted but what the English sometimes call 'shambolic'--chaotic or disorganized--even when he is riding the bicycle that he often uses to get around London."

    The New Yorker, Capital Fellows, April 4, 2008, pg. 26.

    April 10, 2008