\ 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

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

Even some fans have cringed at the more explicit moments. Julie Turkewitz, New York Times, "Brazen Women. Scandalized Viewers. It’s ‘Sex and the City,’ Senegal Style.," 22 Aug. 2019 Ramírez cringed as a nurse injected her with the anesthetic before placing the implant. Washington Post, "Venezuela crisis pushes women into ‘forced motherhood’," 21 Aug. 2019 Still, the rhetoric makes Republican donors cringe. Tessa Berenson, Time, "'This Is a Distraction.' Republicans Worry Trump's Racist Comments Will Hurt Him in 2020," 30 July 2019 But anecdotally, during Bruce Lee’s showdown with Cliff Booth, audiences seem to either laugh along or cringe in their seats. Jen Yamatostaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Bruce Lee’s family calls ‘Once Upon a Time’ ‘a mockery.’ Is it insult or homage?," 31 July 2019 The British cringed over new American accents, coinages and vulgarisms. Time, "Americans and Brits Have Been Fighting Over the English Language for Centuries. Here’s How It Started," 11 June 2019 And for my good neighbors who are Republicans and cringe at many of President Trump’s outbursts, their main concerns seem to be lower taxes, increasing military spending, stronger borders, education and less business regulation. WSJ, "Donald Trump Is Not the Average American," 29 Oct. 2018 The trees cringed, stuffing their ears with leaves. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Wolves," 2 Apr. 2018 The other Today hosts cringed, but Siri just took it in stride, cracking jokes and prepping the meal. Marie Milano, Country Living, "How Carson Daly and His Wife Siri Have Stuck Together in the Good Times and the Bad," 16 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The higher the late individual’s position in circles of power, the more cringe-worthy the tributes. Harish C Menon, Quartz India, "By only praising the dead politician, you are being the worst kind of fake," 26 Aug. 2019 The Padres collected just one strikeout a third of the way through, despite the team’s cringe-worthy pace of 9.71 per game. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Free-swinging Padres fend off strikeouts at right time to stop Red Sox," 25 Aug. 2019 Worst visual effect The quick, albeit cringe-worthy shot of Brown’s chapped and blistered feet. Jon Becker, The Mercury News, "Handing out awards from Raiders’ opener on ‘Hard Knocks’," 8 Aug. 2019 The post garnered plenty of attention from Brown’s fellow working parents, who joined in the comments section to share their own similar, cringe-worthy stories. Ashley Boucher,, "Mom Discovers Daughter Changed Her Contact Info to 'Poop Your Pants' After Unfortunate Work Email," 6 Aug. 2019 Yvonne Lyon has one of those chilling tales about a door-to-door scam that could make any loved one cringe. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Door-to-door thieves are using DNA tests to scam you," 15 Aug. 2019 To avoid the cringe factor that often comes from mixing two similar but slightly different colors, opt for a pair of shoes a hair darker than your outfit—a fire-engine red dress with pair of cherry-red heels, for example. Leah Bourne, Glamour, "How to Match Your Shoes to Your Outfit and Not Look Old-Fashioned," 24 June 2019 The hulking shoes were made to look like a composite of other popular sneakers, bringing together soles, treads, and laces in a monstrous form that could make even Frankenstein cringe. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "We’ve Gotta Have It: The 17 Items that Defined Fashion in the 2010s," 18 July 2019 Those Kyrgios press conferences can be prickly, flippant, but often amusing affairs, too -- cringe-making for the traditionalists, box-office for others. Ravi Ubha, CNN, "Larrikin or liability: Is Nick Kyrgios good for tennis?," 5 July 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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Statistics for cringe

Last Updated

2 Sep 2019

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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 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cringe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cringe

Spanish Central: Translation of cringe

Nglish: Translation of cringe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cringe for Arabic Speakers

Comments on cringe

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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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