\ ˈkrinj How to pronounce cringe (audio) \
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

Other Words from cringe


cringer noun

Synonyms for cringe

Synonyms: Verb

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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

Verb 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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Even those — like me — with a higher-than-average tolerance may cringe at this supposedly light and philosophical comedy. Jesse Hassenger, The Week, 28 Jan. 2022 Some attending might have very different views of the tone of this moment, which appeared to segue from comedy to cringe to offense. James Hibberd, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Mar. 2022 Even those of us who cringe at the idea of matching Christmas sweaters or T-shirts have to admit: There is something undeniably charming about wearing matching family pajamas on Christmas. Sabrina Rojas Weiss,, 4 Nov. 2021 These two teams, as much as their fanbases may cringe at the mere thought, are a lot alike. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, 7 Oct. 2021 Does anyone else cringe 30 seconds into their conversations or better yet, their disagreements? Myrla Feria,, 9 Mar. 2022 While the recent stock-market declines might make investors cringe, some point to signs that shares are poised for a rebound. Karen Langley, WSJ, 6 Mar. 2022 Nip/Tuck and 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord also made followers cringe on Thursday after posting an absolutely bizarre video of herself reading a poem addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Brendan Morrow, The Week, 24 Feb. 2022 Many former intense young nerds will cringe with loving recognition. Zan Romanoff, Los Angeles Times, 10 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Some are funny, some cringe-worthy, others are sad. Alicia Rancilio, ajc, 4 May 2022 Given this multiplicity of audiences, Rogers and producer Alan Poul tell EW that a major priority was making sure that Tokyo Vice's depiction of '90s Japan did not seem embarrassing or cringe-worthy to Japanese viewers. Christian Holub,, 8 Apr. 2022 What if the Oscars tamped down its attempts at relevance – like cutting eight categories from the live show and replacing that time with cringe-worthy gags – and instead elevated more behind-the-scenes support staff that help make movies happen? David Oliver, USA TODAY, 4 Apr. 2022 The one and only highlight of Stanford’s otherwise cringe-worthy 78-37 win over Montana State Friday night in the opener of the NCAA Tournament helps demonstrate why the Cardinal is a very scary team. Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Mar. 2022 The sample is cringe-worthy enough on its own but becomes even more painful in context. Jeff Ihaza, Rolling Stone, 3 Mar. 2022 That’s not to say that last week’s episode didn’t include some cringe-tacular moments. oregonlive, 24 Feb. 2022 The seeds of what later became major tenets of all late-night television — cringe man-on-the-street interviews, unpredictable guest appearances, mocking your own network — are all there. Rory Appleton, The Indianapolis Star, 2 Feb. 2022 One of the big trends on the latter over the past month has been the screen recording of people’s cringe audio messages on Hinge, often pulled directly from their profiles and usually posted without covering their name or face. Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone, 20 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

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

Verb and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for cringe

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

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Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cringe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for cringe


\ ˈkrinj How to pronounce cringe (audio) \
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.

More from Merriam-Webster on cringe

Nglish: Translation of cringe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cringe for Arabic Speakers


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