\ 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

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 Then, as if on cue, Mayfield fights for those meaningless rushing yards that make coaches cringe. Robert Klemko,, "How Baker Mayfield Compares to Russell Wilson," 23 Feb. 2018 But there must be a part of the players, as with Barkley, that cringed while thrashing Thailand. Dave Hyde,, "Hyde5: Rules make U.S. soccer run up score — so change the rules," 12 June 2019 Locals of the Far North cringed when tourists pulled out their lighters. Tom Stienstra,, "Planning a trip to California’s far north this summer? Read this first.," 7 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 My rants will probably not reduce the number of cringe-worthy family vacation photos. Christopher Elliott, USA TODAY, "These are the most embarrassing things families do on vacation and how to not do them," 10 June 2019 Many animal mothers adopt parenting styles that would make any human mom cringe. Brian Handwerk, National Geographic, "'Bad moms' of the animal kingdom are only trying to survive," 10 May 2019 With Halloween just around the corner, retailers are unveiling costumes that, as usual, reflect varying degrees of creativity and cringe-worthiness. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Praise Be: This Sexy Handmaid's Tale Costume Got Pulled After Backlash," 21 Sep. 2018 But people still do it on occasion, making for a cringe-worthy sight to witness. Kari Barnett,, "SummerTimeOut: Catch a sunset – and some fish - at the Boynton Beach Inlet," 8 July 2019 And there’s something in it (other than cringe-laughing) for those of us who may have been there and done that. NBC News, "'4 TV shows every 40-something woman I know is watching'," 6 July 2019 Others will, perhaps, feel a cultural cringe, given that hiraeth and hwyl have become rather sentimentalized markers of Welsh identity. Longreads, "Manic Street Preachers’ Album The Holy Bible," 25 June 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

5 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

What made you want to look up cringe? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to shake or wave menacingly

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