\ 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 In other words, next year, no one is going to have to cringe through another Ricky Gervais monologue. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "Netflix Got More Oscar Nominations Than Any Other Studio," 13 Jan. 2020 Few things make hikers cringe more than seeing smoke rising from treasured hiking hubs. Hiker ire was raised in June when the Badger Springs Fire broke out along Interstate 17 south of Cordes Junction. Mare Czinar, azcentral, "Don't be put off by the burn scar. This Agua Fria River overlook hike is well worth it," 21 Nov. 2019 The mine’s-bigger-than-yours lineup at the Monaco Yacht Show was yet another sign of how the wealth of today’s ultra-rich is remaking the world in ways that might make many ordinary people cringe. Benjamin Stupplesbloomberg, Los Angeles Times, "How to get super rich selling superyachts," 5 Oct. 2019 But Jackson is an instinctive player, and sometimes his improvisation makes his coaches cringe and the M&T Bank Stadium crowd roar. Jonas Shaffer,, "Lamar Jackson flashes fancy footwork as Ravens secure 15th straight preseason win, 26-13 over Packers," 16 Aug. 2019 Though people like Cynthia Pflughoeft are fascinated by parasites, most of us cringe at the mention of them. Anchorage Daily News, "With sleuthing, a mystery organism found on the forest floor comes to light," 26 Oct. 2019 By the end of the immigration segment of the debate, people were cringing whenever a candidate dropped into Spanish. Dara Lind, Vox, "4 winners and 3 losers from the first night of the Democratic debates," 27 June 2019 Warren plays both sides of the character with authority, shifting gears effortlessly between cringing before Ike’s fists and ruling the stage with a joy that goes well beyond the dutiful. Kyle Smith, National Review, "On the Indestructibility of Tina Turner," 22 Nov. 2019 Congress repeatedly acted aggressively and decisively, with no cringing fear of backlash. Alex Pareene, The New Republic, "Making Impeachment Matter," 21 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Traditional full-body gua sha, which is more like a sports massage, can produce cringe-worthy results (imagine the aftereffects of cupping, where there is an abundance of bruising and redness). Banu Ibrahim, CNN Underscored, "What is gua sha? The trendy skin care tool dominating Instagram, explained," 30 Dec. 2019 Forget the past shootouts between these teams, Brady had just 106 yards after three quarters and finished 19 of 36 for 169 yards with a touchdown and a cringe-worthy interception that led to Kansas City’s second touchdown., "Patriots aren’t the favorites in the AFC anymore - The Boston Globe," 9 Dec. 2019 Unlike most dating services, TerpMatch does not have messaging capabilities, photos or cringe-worthy bios. Washington Post, "At the University of Maryland, a last chance at love," 16 Dec. 2019 Ugly holiday sweaters, which include bold graphics or cringe-worthy accessories (think built-in light fixtures), have long been popular during the Christmas and holiday season. Banu Ibrahim, CNN Underscored, "20 ugly holiday sweaters that are way too fun to pass up," 11 Dec. 2019 The Tennessee Titans quarterback, replaced as the starter by Ryan Tannehill recently, was the butt of a couple of cringe-worthy jokes during a live news report on WSMV, a local television station in Nashville. oregonlive, "Watch: Marcus Mariota ‘roasted’ on live television news report in Nashville," 28 Nov. 2019 The 24-year-old committed 15 errors at the hot corner in 2018 — fourth most by a third baseman in the majors — and finished with a cringe-worthy -25 defensive runs saved. Kristie Ackert,, "What’s Miguel Andujar’s future with the Yankees look like?," 20 Nov. 2019 A few minutes later, two of the survivors meet for the first time in perhaps the most cringe-inducing conversation in TV history. Adam Epstein, Quartzy, "Netflix just made the worst TV show of all time," 19 Sep. 2019 Someone who met her personal trainer at 9 a.m. and didn’t cringe when asked to do lunges in plain view of other gym guests. Laura Delarato, Condé Nast Traveler, "What It's Like to Spend 24 Hours at the First Equinox Hotel," 20 Aug. 2019

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

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cringe.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on cringe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cringe

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cringe

Spanish Central: Translation of cringe

Nglish: Translation of cringe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cringe for Arabic Speakers

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