\ 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

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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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb No extended gameplay reveals that cringe out with comms from Chad and the rest of the QA team. Joshua Khan, Wired, "Respawn’s Apex Legends Is Just Getting Started," 15 Apr. 2021 Purists cringe, but many philatelists say that doing so — carefully, and tinily — does not damage a stamp or detract from its value. James Barron, Star Tribune, "Shoe designer Stuart Weitzman is selling coveted Inverted Jenny stamps," 13 Apr. 2021 Unfortunately, the idea of releasing radioactivity of any sort makes most people cringe. James Conca, Forbes, "Japan Will Release Radioactive Fukushima Water Into The Ocean," 12 Apr. 2021 There’s much to laugh about in this sitcom featuring a group of scientists that ran from 2007 to 2019, but there’s plenty to cringe about, too. Usa Today Staff, USA TODAY, "From 'Friends' to 'Gilmore Girls': Shows we love that make us cringe in 2021," 24 Mar. 2021 And maybe this is all making fans in Indiana cringe a bit. Stefan Krajisnik, The Indianapolis Star, "'Who's that?' Georgetown knows McKinley Wright's name now as Colorado stampedes past Hoyas," 20 Mar. 2021 Viewers can’t look away, cringe from vicarious fear, or some combination of both — and are amazed that Thompson isn’t fazed at all. Washington Post, "TikTok’s viral beekeeper is getting a lot of ... buzz," 18 Mar. 2021 That sentiment usually makes coaches cringe, especially at how easily it can be turned into bulletin-board material. Edward Lee,, "Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball ditching Cinderella label for ‘a certain swagger’ heading into NCAA tournament," 17 Mar. 2021 Purists cringe, but many philatelists say that doing so — carefully, and tinily — does not damage a stamp or detract from its value. James Barron, New York Times, "He Owns World Famous Stamps and a Prized Coin. Now He’s Selling.," 10 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In an evening full of unwieldy, potentially cringe-worthy moments, there’s no sigh of relief bigger than realizing you’re in good hands, or, more importantly, hands that are having actual fun. Halle Kiefer, Vulture, "Lil Rel Howery Takes All This Awkward Live Oscar Coverage, Makes It Fun," 26 Apr. 2021 The offense finished 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, including a cringe-worthy run of three straight strikeouts with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. Bryce Miller Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Misfiring offense in clutch continues to trip up Padres," 21 Apr. 2021 Perhaps no other genre epitomized that wasteland as much as children’s programs, a point Agrelo supports with a cringe-worthy montage of snippets that include Soupy Sales mugging and a joyless clown selling Tootsie Rolls., "‘Street’ smarts, ‘Towns’ team, Down East dispatches," 21 Apr. 2021 Over many decades, Prince Philip ran the gamut in the British media: at times scolded, mocked and lauded for everything from cringe-worthy comments to his dutiful service to the crown. . Washington Post, "How British media remembered Prince Philip’s legacy," 10 Apr. 2021 There’s no need for a quasi-Socrates circle where nothing really happens, unless Lolo is there to give cringe-worthy speech. Kyndall Cunningham, Vulture, "The Challenge: Double Agents Recap: Shook Ones," 18 Mar. 2021 Alexa’s repertoire ranges from corny to cringe-worthy. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, "15 Alexa commands you’ll wish you knew sooner," 18 Mar. 2021 Mindset and mentality around your health is everything, and that starts with getting rid of the cringe-worthy labels of good foods and bad foods. Stefani Sassos, Ms, Rdn, Cso, Good Housekeeping, "As a Registered Dietitian, I Can Tell You That There Absolutely Are No "Bad" Foods," 13 Mar. 2021 This month’s roundup of under-the-radar streaming suggestions includes bloodcurdling horror, kooky (and sometimes cringe-inducing) comedy, and thoughtful nonfiction takes on flashy subjects. New York Times, "‘Margaret,’ ‘American Animals’ and More Streaming Alternatives," 25 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for cringe

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

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Statistics for cringe

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cringe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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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