\ 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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Asked if coaches cringe at the sight of such risky decisions, McLellan sighed before answering. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, "Five takeaways from the Kings’ season-opening loss to Wild," 14 Jan. 2021 As for Tyler Herro as the starting point guard, first of all, Spoelstra assuredly would cringe at that positional designation. Ira Winderman,, "ASK IRA: Are KZ Okpala, Tyler Herro miscast in Heat rotation?," 27 Dec. 2020 The temptation is to look away, to move on, to cringe and avert your gaze. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "The President Is Acting Crazy, so Why Are We Shrugging It Off?," 3 Dec. 2020 Despite that experience, Hardin said most officers cringe at the notion of being labeled brutal or corrupt, and the police review panel will help protect them. Jessica Priest, USA TODAY, "George Floyd protests pave the way for police reforms at the ballot box," 5 Nov. 2020 Some die-hard Mustang fans cringe at the idea the company would build an SUV and call it a Mustang. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "Ford Motor team had to plead with Bill Ford to give back not-yet-released Mustang," 2 Nov. 2020 So a sequence shot at a debutante ball is equal parts horrifying and sidesplitting, and those more inclined to cringe than laugh might want to spare themselves the experience. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Borat' sequel somehow still manages to serve up audacious surprises," 21 Oct. 2020 The movie does include scenes of the Cuties dancing that will make viewers cringe, and these are the scenes that called Doucouré’s responsibility to her audience into question. Caira Conner, The Atlantic, "Watching Cuties as a Survivor of Pedophilia," 15 Oct. 2020 As the zodiac sign that’s a little resistant to change, the little voice in your head may cringe at doing something different, but follow through! Tarot Astrologers,, "Daily horoscope for October 4, 2020," 4 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But when Carrey arrived with silver wig and sunglasses in the Oct. 3 season premiere, his performance quickly became cringe-worthy. Rasha Ali, USA TODAY, "Jim Carrey announces he will no longer play Joe Biden on 'SNL'," 20 Dec. 2020 Jordan Schakel, Trey Pulliam, Aguek Arop, Terrell Gomez, Joshua Tomaic, Keshad Johnson and Lamont Butler finished a combined, cringe-worthy 14.3 percent. Bryce Miller Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Sizzling game for Aztecs’ Matt Mitchell unfolds in silence against BYU," 18 Dec. 2020 The only thing more cringe-worthy than Scott lobbying for his next contract while his Pac-12 partners are struggling? John Canzano, oregonlive, "Canzano: Three quick and not-so-nutty Pac-12 thoughts," 10 Dec. 2020 She's been steadily accruing fans and buzz since, for her darkly witty and very danceable indie rock tunes about the cringe-worthy and often cold behavior at play in contemporary relationships. Frank Digiacomo, Billboard, "Phoebe Green Discusses Her New Darkly Funny and Personal EP, Phoebe Bridgers and 'Untouchable' Billie Eilish," 4 Dec. 2020 Truth or Drink has gained popularity on the internet for being dirty, funny, and slightly cringe-worthy. Medea Giordano, Wired, "The Best Black Friday Deals Under $50," 28 Nov. 2020 Kenny, a boy band manager, writes a truly cringe-worthy song…so, that feels right. Anna Moeslein, Glamour, "The Bachelorette, Season 16, Episode 7, Recap: We Must Protect Ivan at All Costs," 25 Nov. 2020 Blake goes next, and his cringe-worthy love noises are equally mortifying. Kristen Baldwin,, "The Bachelorette recap: Daring it all," 25 Nov. 2020 The coziest gifts are especially clutch for the extrovert longing for boozy brunches, packed museums, and maybe even cringe-y run-ins with distant family friends—literally anything that qualifies as everyday human interaction. Erin Parker, Glamour, "37 Best Cozy Gifts to Crank Up the Comfort in Quarantine," 8 Dec. 2020

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

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for cringe

Last Updated

25 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cringe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for cringe


How to pronounce cringe (audio)

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 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.

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