\ ˈkrinj \
cringed; cringing

Definition of cringe 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to recoil in distaste Americans cringed … at the use of a term now regarded as a slur —William Safire

2 : to shrink in fear or servility The terrified animal cringed in the corner.

3 : to behave in an excessively humble or servile way beggars cringing to tourists for money

4 : to draw in or contract one's muscles involuntarily (as from cold or pain) … we cringe under the blasting wind … —Charles S. Houston



Definition of cringe (Entry 2 of 2)

: a cringing act specifically : a servile bow

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Other words from cringe


cringer noun

Synonyms for cringe

Synonyms: Verb

blench, flinch, quail, recoil, shrink, squinch, wince

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Choose the Right Synonym for cringe


fawn, toady, truckle, cringe, cower mean to behave abjectly before a superior. fawn implies seeking favor by servile flattery or exaggerated attention. waiters fawning over a celebrity toady suggests the attempt to ingratiate oneself by an abjectly menial or subservient attitude. toadying to his boss truckle implies the subordination of oneself and one's desires or judgment to those of a superior. truckling to a powerful lobbyist cringe suggests a bowing or shrinking in fear or servility. a cringing sycophant cower suggests a display of abject fear in the company of threatening or domineering people. cowering before a bully

Examples of cringe in a Sentence


Many English teachers cringe when their students use the word “ain't.” I always cringe when I hear that song. Just the thought of eating broccoli makes me cringe. The dog cringed at the noise.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Republicans are cringing at the administration’s decision not to defend the health law’s preexisting condition provision. Brianna Labuskes, Washington Post, "The story must be told.," 15 June 2018 While Froome dreams of joining Merckx on the sport’s mountaintop after a dominant Giro d’Italia, other riders, officials and organizers are cringing at the prospect. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Chris Froome’s Epic Giro d’Italia Makes for Uncomfortable Tour de France," 1 June 2018 Pause here for California Democratic leaders to cringe. John Wildermuth,, "High gas prices a sore subject for California Democrats," 6 July 2018 Many cringed at the Lakers pitch and thought that alone would keep George from going to LA. Andrew Hussey, Indianapolis Star, "ESPN announces 3-part series on Paul George's offseason and Twitter laughed at the idea," 25 June 2018 Temple fans with a memory to 2000 will cringe, going straight to a day that derailed maybe the Owls’ best shot at the Final Four under John Chaney. Mike Jensen,, "Former Temple big man Ron Rollerson, having lost a leg, finds a new sport," 24 May 2018 The app introduced a fatal self-consciousness: To my usual audience of online friends was added my own future self, cringing from a distance. Daniel Kolitz, New York Times, "Letter of Recommendation: Timehop," 26 June 2018 Fox Sports is cringing after paying a reported $425 million for the English-language TV rights for 2018 and 2022. Mark Zeigler,, "Your guide to the World Cup you forgot was happening," 13 June 2018 The scent that Malle is arguably best known for, though, is Carnal Flower, whose ubiquity in New York fashion and social circles is a modern-day Joy or Fracas (though Malle would likely cringe at the notion of it being compared to any scent). Jane Larkworthy, The Cut, "Frédéric Malle Wishes He Invented Perfume," 5 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

If the Omni Hotel's Falls City Market makes your wallet cringe, don't worry – there's another downtown option for fresh produce and meat on the way. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, "Looking for groceries in downtown Louisville? A new option is coming in May.," 17 Apr. 2018 Corchado, whose previous book dealt with drug corruption, cringes. Jill Leovy,, "A personal perspective on Mexico's mass exodus to the United States," 2 July 2018 Talk like that makes McAllen Mayor Jim Darling cringe. Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, "Small Texas border city finds itself in spotlight amid immigrant children separations," 21 June 2018 Read on to learn more about Carrie and company at their most elemental (sorry, that pun would make even Samantha cringe)., "The Elements Of The Zodiac, As Defined By The Women Of Sex And The City," 6 June 2018 Thankfully, for most of us, the days of drinking wine out of a mug (cringe) are long gone. Kelsey Kloss, ELLE Decor, "How Your Wine Glass Changes The Taste Of Your Wine," 12 Sep. 2016 Check out the cringe-worthypromposal fail below (skip to 1:58 to get right to the promposal). Noelle Devoe, Seventeen, "You Have To See Why This Viral Promposal Left A Girl Sobbing Uncontrollably (And Not In A Good Way)," 17 Apr. 2015 Yet, a day after the season seven premiere, my former obsession with binge-watching the show has turned into a dreaded cringe-watching. Danielle Tullo, House Beautiful, "The New Flip Or Flop Turns Binge-Watching Into Cringe-Watching," 1 June 2018 And Fielder, playing a funhouse-mirror version of himself, is transcendently awkward, turning every episode into a wonderfully cringe-y comedy of manners. Scott Meslow, GQ, "Finally, You Can Stream All of Nathan for You," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cringe.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cringe


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1597, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cringe


Middle English crengen; akin to Old English cringan to yield, Middle High German krank weak


see cringe entry 1

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Statistics for cringe

Last Updated

19 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cringe

The first known use of cringe was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for cringe



English Language Learners Definition of cringe

: to feel disgust or embarrassment and often to show this feeling by a movement of your face or body

: to make a sudden movement from fear of being hit or hurt


\ ˈkrinj \
cringed; cringing

Kids Definition of cringe

1 : to shrink in fear : cower … when you see a dog cringe … You know somebody's been kicking at him. —Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Shiloh

2 : to show disgust or embarrassment at something He cringed at the suggestion of eating liver.

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Comments on cringe

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


the setting in which something occurs

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