\ ˈkrinj \
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

Three plays later, on third-and-10, McGahee got the ball—and what happened next still makes people cringe. Scott Tinley,, "An Oral History of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl Between Miami, Ohio State," 4 Jan. 2013 Republicans are cringing at the administration’s decision not to defend the health law’s preexisting condition provision. Brianna Labuskes, Washington Post, "The story must be told.," 15 June 2018 While Froome dreams of joining Merckx on the sport’s mountaintop after a dominant Giro d’Italia, other riders, officials and organizers are cringing at the prospect. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Chris Froome’s Epic Giro d’Italia Makes for Uncomfortable Tour de France," 1 June 2018 Pause here for California Democratic leaders to cringe. John Wildermuth,, "High gas prices a sore subject for California Democrats," 6 July 2018 Many cringed at the Lakers pitch and thought that alone would keep George from going to LA. Andrew Hussey, Indianapolis Star, "ESPN announces 3-part series on Paul George's offseason and Twitter laughed at the idea," 25 June 2018 Temple fans with a memory to 2000 will cringe, going straight to a day that derailed maybe the Owls’ best shot at the Final Four under John Chaney. Mike Jensen,, "Former Temple big man Ron Rollerson, having lost a leg, finds a new sport," 24 May 2018 The app introduced a fatal self-consciousness: To my usual audience of online friends was added my own future self, cringing from a distance. Daniel Kolitz, New York Times, "Letter of Recommendation: Timehop," 26 June 2018 Fox Sports is cringing after paying a reported $425 million for the English-language TV rights for 2018 and 2022. Mark Zeigler,, "Your guide to the World Cup you forgot was happening," 13 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Season 7, Episode 6 Consider Peep Show a kind of follow-up to Absolutely Fabulous, but with two bumbling Gen X bros; this New Year’s Eve episode is no exception to Mark and Jeremy’s usual cringe-worthy comedic antics. Vogue, "The Best New Year’s Eve–Theme Movies and TV Shows to Watch Tonight," 31 Dec. 2018 Just the thought of working through those impossible snarls is enough to make anyone cringe. Joane Amay, Allure, "These Tools Will Detangle Your Hair Ever So Gently," 17 Sep. 2018 Stella Rae looks back at her old YouTube videos and cringes. Jordan Bissell, The Atlantic, "Vegan YouTube Stars Are Held to Impossible Standards," 22 May 2018 Star of the upcoming movie Beautiful Boy, Carell is best known for his role as cringe-inducing but well-meaning Michael Scott on the NBC television sitcom The Office. Samantha Drake, Country Living, "How Steve and Nancy Carell Have Made Their Marriage Thrive for More Than Two Decades," 13 Oct. 2018 It's been a cringe-inducing saga, to say the least. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle Is Reportedly Planning a Secret Trip to Visit Her Estranged Father, Thomas Markle," 5 Aug. 2018 Luzia’’ — often exceed the seeming limits of human possibility (including a genuinely cringe-inducing performance by a contortionist). Don Aucoin,, "A Cirque du Soleil show that’s as interested in ‘Ahh’ as ‘Wow’," 29 June 2018 The episodes when the ragtag, war-protesting Rock Singers enter have long been the most cringe-inducing for many listeners. New York Times, "Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?," 13 July 2018 Skills varied, as did promises, as did fees, ranging from around $10K to a whopping, cringe-inducing, $73,500. Steve Strauss, USA TODAY, "Get your gig: Here are the 9 best sites to visit for freelance or contract work," 12 July 2018

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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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 \
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

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