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crawled; crawling; crawls

intransitive verb

: to move on one's hands and knees
The baby crawled toward her mother.
: to move slowly in a prone position without or as if without the use of limbs
The snake crawled into its hole.
The soldiers crawled forward on their bellies.
: to move or progress slowly or laboriously
traffic crawling along at 10 miles an hour
: to advance by guile or servility
crawling into favor by toadying to his boss
: to spread by extending stems or tendrils
a crawling vine
: to be alive or swarming with or as if with creeping things
a kitchen crawling with ants
: to have the sensation of insects creeping over one
the story made her flesh crawl
: to fail to stay evenly spread
used of paint, varnish, or glaze

transitive verb

: to move upon in or as if in a creeping manner
all the creatures that crawl the earth
: to reprove harshly
they got no good right to crawl me for what I wroteMarjorie K. Rawlings


2 of 2


plural crawls
: the act or action of crawling
A child's early developmental stages, be it their first crawl or their first step, is something parents eagerly anticipate and cherish.Malvika Hemanth
: slow or laborious progress
Traffic slowed to a crawl.
It [Hurricane Ian] swamped city streets with water and smashed trees along the coast while moving at a crawl that threatened catastrophic flooding across a wide area.Mark Heim
chiefly British : the visiting of various pubs in succession especially as a social activity
… tourists have also recently been reported doing a crawl around the London pubs where Karl Marx allegedly used to get drunk.Jeremy Atiyah
see also bar crawl, pub crawl
: a themed event that involves visiting multiple establishments of a similar kind in succession
A shuttle will run throughout the day to take visitors to the various locations on the art crawl and visit the 15 vendors who've created works for the shopping event.Sarah Colburn
In New Jersey, there's no shortage of experiential tourism for foodies, from food crawls in Jersey City to … farms in Hunterdon County …Kimberly Redmond
A lit crawl is like a pub crawl, except (perhaps) you won't have a headache the next day. You will, however, wake up to find your head stuffed with glorious words and (perhaps) to see a new stack of books on your bedside table.Laurie Hertzel
: a fast swimming stroke executed in a prone position with alternating overarm strokes and a flutter kick
: lettering that moves vertically or horizontally across a television or motion-picture screen to give information (such as performer credits or news bulletins)

Examples of crawl in a Sentence

Verb Does the baby crawl yet? We got down on our knees and crawled through a small opening. The baby crawled across the floor toward her mother. The soldiers crawled forward on their bellies. The snake crawled into its hole. They're doing construction on the road, so traffic is crawling. I worked late into the night, and it was 2 a.m. before I finally crawled into bed. The bus crawled along the rough and narrow road. The days slowly crawled by. Work on the project has crawled to a standstill. Noun Near the construction site, traffic had slowed to a crawl. The bus was moving along at a crawl. Her strongest stroke is the crawl. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
After their time is up, cabin crew will have thirty minutes to change the sheets and clean the pods, before the next person can crawl inside. Alex Ledsom, Forbes, 26 Feb. 2024 About 50 million years ago, the four-legged ancestors of whales crawled back in, likely somewhere near present-day Pakistan. Ross Andersen, The Atlantic, 24 Feb. 2024 If no shelter is available, crawl to an interior wall away from windows. Daniella Segura, Sacramento Bee, 22 Feb. 2024 But as Sharon steadfastly shoulders the Schmitt’s stresses, her own demons crawl out of the shadows once again. Courtney Howard, Variety, 20 Feb. 2024 Starting in late April, two major broods of cicadas that show up on 13- and 17-year cycles will crawl out of the soil and head to treetops to sing and mate. Keely Brewer, The Daily Memphian, and Brittney J. Miller, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Journal Sentinel, 20 Feb. 2024 The manager killed all three roaches crawling on the floor. David J. Neal, Miami Herald, 9 Feb. 2024 There was Spencer, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for so artfully crawling out of her own skin. Alex Morris, Rolling Stone, 14 Feb. 2024 Seven roaches were crawling on wall behind grill and three compartment sink. David J. Neal, Miami Herald, 9 Feb. 2024
The Lantern Festival proceedings in the U.K. Some British communities also observed the holiday, with a Chinatown food crawl in London and a commemoration in Southampton. TIME, 24 Feb. 2024 For context, Palantir reported an NRR of 150% at the end of FY21 in US commercial, but that likely fell significantly when growth slowed to a crawl at the end of FY22. Beth Kindig, Forbes, 15 Feb. 2024 Kelly’s departure comes at an abysmal time for the Bruins given that the coaching carousel has spun to a crawl and few, if any, highly coveted replacements remain available. Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, 9 Feb. 2024 The sense of community is enhanced by events held throughout the year, including wine tastings, deck crawls and holiday celebrations. Kansas City Star, 25 Jan. 2024 Another adorable picture shows Sidney giving Lemmy a bone as the two crawl on the floor together. Hannah Sacks, Peoplemag, 11 Jan. 2024 Enjoy tours, tastings, seminars, a cheese crawl and an artisan marketplace. Brittany Delay, The Mercury News, 1 Jan. 2024 From the Thundering Herd to a thundering crawl, the rebuild is on, but the spirit of competition remains. Marcus D. Smith, Sacramento Bee, 30 Jan. 2024 The story slows to a crawl toward the end, even with a scene featuring a carjacking. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 17 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'crawl.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English, from Old Norse krafla

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of crawl was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near crawl

Cite this Entry

“Crawl.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to move slowly with the body close to the ground : move on hands and knees
: to move along slowly
the bus crawled along
: to be covered with or have the feeling of being covered with creeping things
the floor was crawling with ants
crawler noun


2 of 2 noun
: the act or motion of crawling
: a swimming method in which the swimmer lies facing down in the water and moves with overarm strokes and a thrashing kick

More from Merriam-Webster on crawl

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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