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

Definition of crabwise

2 : in a sidling or cautiously indirect manner

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for crabwise


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

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 that word is directly related to that sidling sea creature, the crab. If you live near the shore or have visited a beach near the sea, you have probably seen crabs scuttling along, often moving sideways and not taking what humans would consider the most direct route. The modern meanings of crabwise were definitely inspired by the crab's lateral or oblique approach to getting from one place to another. The word crept into English in the mid-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

1863, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about crabwise

Time Traveler for crabwise

Time Traveler

The first known use of crabwise was in 1863

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about crabwise

Statistics for crabwise

Cite this Entry

“Crabwise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on crabwise

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for crabwise

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with crabwise

Comments on crabwise

What made you want to look up crabwise? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!