I am looking for the verb or expression to use to describe when for instance you type quickly and nervously on your computer keyboard, perhaps to find something (on a search engine for instance).

  • Do you mean when you mishit the keys or make a typo?
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:41
  • No, just the action of typing quickly and nervously..something we all do everyday I think. Is there a specific verb or expression for this?
    – user66974
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:45
  • 1
    I might call that 'hammering away at the keyboard', though that could imply merely hitting the keys rather hard -- not necessarily typing quickly.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:47
  • 6
    I really don't think typing nervously is something we all do on a daily basis. I'm quite sure I only do it very rarely, in fact. Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:52
  • 1
    Stop fidgeting on the keyboard. Commented May 20, 2014 at 10:28

6 Answers 6


So it has to describe

  • typing on a keyboard
  • nervously and quickly
  • that you are trying to find something

These are such unrelated concepts (especially the third one in connection to the other two!) that the chances of a language having come up with an expression to coincidentally exactly describe those three concepts applying all together are very slim at best.

The only time that happens is if and when the need for such an expression arises because people encounter the need to express the combined concepts quite often. Which I doubt is the case for this example.

However, apart from set phrases, you could introduce the concepts contextually:

He was frantically googling.

  • Would indicate his use of a well-know search engine.
  • Which in turn tells us is is trying to find something.
  • Since we know that using google means we type things, we know he is typing.
  • The use of frantically tells us he is doing it in what may be described as fast and nervously.

(I assume you meant a search engine, not a research engine...)

  • +1. Exactly what my thoughts were, including the fact that frantically is the most natural word to describe the ‘nervous’ part of things. Commented May 20, 2014 at 9:08
  • You can use google without typing. Google Now on Android allows you to google by voice. So frantically googling could be yammering into your android phone.
    – davoid
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 11:12
  • @davoid: I am making the assumption here that someone who exhibits the described behaviour would do so in a similar way substituting a way of talking for a way of typing if they were to use a voice-operated system. The question was to describe the behaviour in the question, not to find a sentence that can not describe anything else :P
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 11:20
  • @oerkelens Gotcha. Carry on ;-)
    – davoid
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 12:20
  • Though franticly is also listed on dictionaries, frantically is far more common. books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=franticly%2C+frantically
    – Kris
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 13:03

I don't think I have ever heard anyone use "Fumbling at..." in this kind of context.


...frenetically searching for something on the computer

"Frenetically" implies speed and possibly not 100% accuracy, whereas "frantically" just implies speed and possibly frustration at not achieving results faster.

  • Frenetically is (almost) a synonym of frantically (oerkelens)
    – Kris
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 13:04
  • @Kris Indeed, but it carries subtle nuances that may be more accurate in this context
    – Marv Mills
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 14:34
  • 1
    My own sense of “frenetic” is that it covers a wider variety of motions than anything someone would do at a keyboard. There is also the fact that “frenetic” is almost never used as an adverb, so it may not be clear to the masses. Commented May 20, 2014 at 15:19

Having just been given the idea by Invoker's contribution, I think fumbling at the keyboard gets the OP's desired points across very well.


Scrabbling might be a good choice.

Although the OED defines it primarily as a writing action:

"To make marks at random; to write in rambling or scrawling characters; to scrawl, scribble."

It gives further definitions that describe animal behaviour as:

"To scratch about hurriedly with the claws or paws; hence, of a person, to scratch or scrape about with the hands or feet" which gives a sense of the frenetic action of quick nervous typing.

The OED further defines it as "To struggle or scramble for (something)" which can also work to describe the struggle to find the sought information.

Then scramble is defined as "To collect or gather up hastily or in disorder" which again would give the impression of hastily collecting information.

Also, scrabbling sounds seriously onomatopoeic when you imagine clacking away on a noisy keyboard.


The first word that comes to mind is feverishly.

Agreed about fumbling -- that clearly implies clumsiness and failure.


Consider the following phrase:

He was fumbling while typing.

Fumbling - to do or handle something clumsily. (This is the effect ; the case is almost always nervousness)

Consider another example -

She was fumbling while speaking on the stage.

Why? Because she was nervous.

  • Nah. Not working at all - you likely meant fidgeting and it does not work in this case
    – mplungjan
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 9:52
  • 1
    While some people may fumble when they are nervous, many people fumble for other reasons, I'm afraid. Nervousness may contribute, but I know plenty of people who can fumble in a very relaxed way.
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 11:22