crab·​wise | \ ˈkrab-ˌwīz How to pronounce crabwise (audio) \

Definition of crabwise

1 : sideways
2 : in a sidling or cautiously indirect manner

Synonyms for crabwise


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There's no reason to be indirect when explaining the etymology of crabwise—we'll get right to the point. As you might guess, the meaning of the word is directly related to that sidling sea creature, the crab. If you have visited a beach near the sea, you have probably seen crabs scuttling along, often moving sideways. Though the behavior is surely above reproach to the crabs themselves, English speakers tend to be suspicious of what comes at them from the side, and the modern meanings of crabwise reflect this suspicion of the crab's lateral approach. The word crept into English in the early 19th century and has been sidling into our sentences ever since.

Examples of crabwise in a Sentence

she inched crabwise out of the room, hoping no one would notice

First Known Use of crabwise

1828, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of crabwise was in 1828

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Dictionary Entries Near crabwise

crab tree



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Cite this Entry

“Crabwise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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