grap·​ple | \ ˈgra-pəl \

Definition of grapple 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the act or an instance of grappling
b : a hand-to-hand struggle locked in a desperate grapple with his foe
c : a contest for superiority or mastery their grapple with tyranny
2 : an instrument for grabbing or gripping something: such as
a : a bucket (as on an excavating machine) having hinged jaws


grappled; grappling\ ˈgra-​p(ə-​)liŋ \

Definition of grapple (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to seize with or as if with a grapple (see grapple entry 1 sense 2)
2 : to grasp with the hands : wrestle
3 : to bind closely

intransitive verb

1 : to make a ship fast with a grappling hook
2 : to begin to understand or deal with something in a direct or effective way Officials grappled with an increase in violent crimes.
3 : to use a grapple

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Other Words from grapple


grappler \ ˈgra-​p(ə-​)lər \ noun

Synonyms for grapple

Synonyms: Noun

clasp, clench, grasp, grip, handgrip, handhold, hold

Synonyms: Verb

rassle, scuffle, tussle, wrestle

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Examples of grapple in a Sentence


was simply unable to break my opponent's viselike grapple and lost the wrestling match after a grapple with his conscience, he confessed to having an affair


two sumo wrestlers grappling like a pair of mammoth bears a crane grappled the sunken boat and hoisted it above water
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Surveillance video shows the gun pointed at the clerk's head as the two grapple. Fox News, "Video shows robber, deli clerk grappling over gun," 18 Sep. 2018 His quick moves and heavy grapples look like an interesting alternative to the likes of classic melee character Captain Falcon. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Smash Bros. Ultimate confirms final features—and new fighters through 2020," 1 Nov. 2018 Meanwhile, technology firms are attacking all parts of the property transaction process with hooks and grapples to the blockchain. Joanne Cleaver,, "Could blockchain technology transform homebuying in Cook County — and beyond?," 9 July 2018 Though these attributions were already widely assumed, the White House's public acknowledgement is a key step as both the government and private sector grapple with how to respond. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "The Worst Cybersecurity Breaches of 2018 So Far," 9 July 2018 And that’s something that both this play and Dry Powder grapple with. Adam Green, Vogue, "In Kings, Sarah Burgess Tackles the Corrosive Power of Money on the Government," 21 Mar. 2018 In the sequel as in the original movie, the Parr family grapple with high-tech threats while surrounded by midcentury interior design and architecture. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The Incredibles 2 Addresses the State of the Union," 19 June 2018 Humans colonizing the planet Pax grapple with the discovery that indigenous plant life is intelligent and may view them as a threat. Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "85 books for summer reading," 18 May 2018 Walmart’s more generous stance comes as suppliers like General Mills Inc. and Hershey Co. grapple with a transportation shortage and new driving regulations that have sent shipping costs spiraling., "Walmart Relaxes Deadlines for Some Deliveries Amid Driver Crunch," 11 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Odds are that the next season will have to grapple with when and how Archie gets out. Noelle Devoe, Seventeen, "Here's Everything We Know About "Riverdale" Season 3 So Far!," 23 July 2018 State law sets out sanctions including takeover for schools that go years with failing grades, a situation Gary and Muncie districts are grappling with. Meredith Colias-pete, Post-Tribune, "2 different school accountability systems could mean uncertainty for parents, Northwest Indiana educators fear," 15 June 2018 That close, and somewhat shocking, vote instigated the current political chaos in Britain, as a bitterly divided country grapples with exactly how to break up with the EU ahead of the March 29, 2019, deadline. Jen Kirby, Vox, "The case for holding a second Brexit referendum," 17 Dec. 2018 The move comes as CBS grapples with multiple accusations of misconduct leveled against high-profile leaders at the organization. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "CBS Is Donating $20 Million From Les Moonves' Severance Package to 18 Women's Organizations," 15 Dec. 2018 In a lengthy article, Ars captures the state of play in the Japanese launch industry as the country grapples with the rise of SpaceX and nears completion of its new H3 rocket. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: SpaceX gets top clearance, Europe job cuts, Russian plans," 16 Nov. 2018 For children, medicine to suppress puberty may be considered, to buy time as the youth grapples with questions of gender identity. Lauran Neergaard, The Seattle Times, "Science Says: Sex and gender aren’t the same," 22 Oct. 2018 As women today grapple to redefine their place in society, consider this Prada’s declaration that a little girlishness can go a long way. Trending Stories on Runway: Goodbye, Mom Jeans! Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Boyish Bangs! Baby Doll Lashes! Just Don't Call Prada’s Beauty Look Millennial," 21 Sep. 2018 As remote corners of Germany grapple with the refugee crisis, Bavaria continues to thwart refugees to the north and west. Adam H. Graham, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Perfect Long Weekend in Bavaria," 17 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'grapple.' 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 grapple


1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1530, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for grapple

Noun and Verb

Middle English grappel grappling hook, from Old French *grappelle, diminutive of grape hook — more at grape

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Learn More about grapple

Statistics for grapple

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for grapple

The first known use of grapple was in 1530

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More Definitions for grapple



English Language Learners Definition of grapple

: to hold and fight with another person

: to try to solve a problem : to deal with a problem


grappled; grappling

Kids Definition of grapple

1 : to seize or hold with an instrument (as a hook)
2 : to seize and struggle with another Wrestlers grappled in the ring.
3 : to deal with Leaders are grappling with the problem.

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More from Merriam-Webster on grapple

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with grapple

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for grapple

Spanish Central: Translation of grapple

Nglish: Translation of grapple for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of grapple for Arabic Speakers

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a person who helps groups work together

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