\ 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 brace yourself to watch videos of women cringing while Joe Biden massages their shoulders approximately a hundred times. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Joe Biden Isn't the Best Alternative to Trump," 6 May 2019 Check out these stars' jaw-dropping comments and get ready to cringe from secondhand embarrassment. 1. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "18 Celebs Who Threw Massive Amounts of Shade at Their Exes," 17 Oct. 2018 Republicans predictably made Newsom their foe, and Democrats cringed at how his move might energize social conservatives to vote against them in the 2004 presidential election. Melanie Mason,, "When Gavin Newsom issued marriage licenses in San Francisco, his party was furious. Now, it's a campaign ad," 15 May 2018 That might explain why, despite PEN15's jokes, the laughs aren't brought on by a punchline so much as by a cringing sense of recognition. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "The Creators of PEN15 Present Their Hilarious, Oddly Harrowing New Show," 26 Feb. 2019 Just saying the words can make people cringe, but Lee Ledbetter understands its potential. Candace Braun Davison, House Beautiful, "So This Is The Secret to Making a Modern Home Feel Cozy," 8 Mar. 2019 That’s all good news for Colts fans who cringed at the notion their bright, young star may never return to his pre-injury form following surgery. Michael Marot, The Seattle Times, "Luck to make start, may play most of 1st quarter at Seattle," 7 Aug. 2018 Even host Terry Crews cringed from the sidelines as people in the audience booed. Heather Finn, Good Housekeeping, "'America's Got Talent' Star Mel B Got Booed After Criticizing Angelica Hale's Performance," 22 Jan. 2019 His advisers privately cringed at the talk, concerned that the president’s warnings and insults could escalate tensions with Mr. Kim, who is known to be thin-skinned, to the point of precipitating a nuclear crisis. New York Times, "Trump on Kim Jong-un: Once a ‘Madman,’ Now a ‘Very Honorable’ Leader," 10 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There is solid logic behind this strategy, even if losing a fourth-round pick is cringe worthy for a team that has all kinds of holes, especially on defense. Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press, "How this NFL draft could propel Detroit Lions into playoffs," 28 Apr. 2018 Game of Thrones Season 8, HBO, April 14 The final winter is coming, finally, to HBO, where Game of Thrones will wrap after eight years making us cringe, cry, and talk about dragons. Vogue, "9 Things to Watch in April on Netflix, HBO and More," 29 Mar. 2019 While some of the advice is cringe-worthy, there are a few tips and tricks that are applicable to modern marriages. Melissa Locker, Southern Living, "WATCH: Some 1950s Marriage Advice Is Still Really Valuable Today," 14 June 2018 That doesn’t make our high-handed dismissal of the group any less cringe-worthy. Jim Impoco, Newsweek, "The Beatles Suck. Yeah, We Said That," 3 Feb. 2014 In the hilariously cringe-y episode, 18-year-old Zac thinks that a canopy is a mosquito net, takes a swim in some girl's pool, stretches out one prospective date's pair of pumps, and plays a girl's guitar (horribly). Noelle Devoe, Seventeen, "OMG, You Have to See 18-Year-Old Zac Efron on "Room Raiders"," 26 Apr. 2017 More-mature Americans, who didn’t learn their ABCs on an LCD screen, cringe at the prospect of an unwanted sofa hulking in their homes, and the anxiety of coordinating its removal. Catherine Romano, WSJ, "Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out," 13 Dec. 2018 But, those that monitor air quality cringe this time of year when smoke from fireworks causes a dangerous increase in particulate matter. Heloise, Houston Chronicle, "Don’t have a blast on the Fourth," 1 July 2018 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

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

27 May 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

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


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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