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cringed; cringing

intransitive verb

: to recoil in distaste
Americans cringed … at the use of a term now regarded as a slurWilliam Safire
: to shrink in fear or servility
The terrified animal cringed in the corner.
: to behave in an excessively humble or servile way
beggars cringing to tourists for money
: to draw in or contract one's muscles involuntarily (as from cold or pain)
… we cringe under the blasting wind …Charles S. Houston
cringer noun


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: a cringing act
specifically : a servile bow


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: so embarrassing, awkward, etc. as to cause one to cringe : cringeworthy
a cringe moment
cringe comedy [=comedy involving jokes that make people uncomfortable]
It's hard to find a movie from the early 2000s that isn't a little
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
To some, its dominance is cringe (or a FOMO moment for non-Spotify users). Amanda Hoover, WIRED, 29 Nov. 2023 Some academics cringed at his departure from traditional approaches. Brian Murphy, Washington Post, 25 Nov. 2023 The acquisition announcement set off privacy alarms everywhere, and people cringed at the idea of Amazon gaining access to maps of millions of homes. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 3 Nov. 2023 Reflecting on her older sister, Roni cringed slightly. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, 11 Nov. 2023 On Thursday's episode of Live with Hoda & Jenna, Bush Hager, 41, and co-host Hoda Kotb, 59, watch a clip of Jimmy Kimmel, 55, and his wife kissing as his kids cringe at the sight. Hannah Sacks, Peoplemag, 26 Oct. 2023 The result was an awkward Frankenstein of tone and rhythm that could make the corniest dad cringe. Caleb Madison, The Atlantic, 28 Oct. 2023 And those weren’t the only comments that made some of his associates cringe. Kim Masters, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Oct. 2023 Some things, of course, will not change, and this year’s intro is only an iota less cringe than the Billy Ray Cyrus tribute that opened 2021. James Hansen, Bon Appétit, 28 Sep. 2023
For a comedy of its era, the film is remarkably free of cringe. Angie Martoccio, Rolling Stone, 28 Sep. 2023 This is the ultimate disappointment of writer-director Jennifer Cram’s cringe comedy. Courtney Howard, Variety, 18 Oct. 2023 Watching sports media maniacally try to capitalize on the cultural power of Taylor Swift and her female fanbase is the definition of cringe. Stephanie McNeal, Glamour, 6 Oct. 2023 In 2020, the atmosphere worsened when former host Sandi Toksvig’s brusque warmth was replaced by the cringe (and extremely dubious) comedian Matt Lucas. James Hansen, Bon Appétit, 28 Sep. 2023 Instead, in true millennial cringe fashion, Ballinger delivered her message through a 10-minute YouTube ukulele song, leaving behind probably the only time a notes app apology would have been preferable. Ct Jones, Rolling Stone, 28 June 2023 Over the past 20 years, American culture has been gorging itself nearly to death on cringe comedy. Sam Anderson, New York Times, 3 June 2023 The series is all cliché, followed by painful cringe and then rounded out by dumbfounded confusion. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, 26 May 2023 While the cringe parts are unfortunately inescapable, the movie still holds its own in certain respects. Mekita Rivas,, 15 Aug. 2023
The Curse, a new series premiering this weekend on both Showtime and Paramount+ with Showtime, is an epic masterpiece of cringe comedy — 10 weekly episodes of engulfing discomfort, pain and despair. Tom Gliatto, Peoplemag, 10 Nov. 2023 Was Timberlake’s cultural stock — already wobbling at dangerously cringe levels in recent years — about to take another hit? Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 13 Sep. 2023 In fact, some of it was pretty cringe and on the nose and reminded me of being a 13-year-old discovering Tumblr for the first time. Riann Phillip, Vogue, 26 July 2023 See More

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

Word History


Verb and Noun

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

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1597, in the meaning defined above


1983, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near cringe

Cite this Entry

“Cringe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


cringed; cringing
: to shrink in fear or distaste : cower
cringed at the sight of blood
: to behave in a too humble or cowardly way
cringer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on cringe

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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