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

b : grappling hook


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

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

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 This is the essence of the maddening grapple between Heidl and Kehlmann. William Giraldi,, "Richard Flanagan's 'First Person': A ghostwriter who fights lies with lies," 6 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The first season of the series is still following Maggie and her sisters Mel (Melonie Diaz and Macy (Madeleine Mantock) learning to wield their magical powers (Maggie’s is telepathy) while collectively grappling with their mother’s mysterious death. Chelsea Greenwood Lassman, Teen Vogue, ""Charmed" Star Sarah Jeffery on the Resurgence of Witches and Why She'd Use Her Powers on Her Dog," 12 Nov. 2018 While some families grapple with sibling rivalries, there's nothing but love for baby Crew in the Gaines household. Jessica Leigh Mattern, Country Living, "Chip and Joanna Gaines' Kids 'Fight Over' Baby Crew for the Sweetest Reason," 27 Oct. 2018 In the contemporary storyline, out-of-work magazine writer Willa takes in her infant grandson—whose mother has killed herself and whose father has all but gone AWOL—while the family grapples with their unstable financial future. Ellen Gamerman, WSJ, "Barbara Kingsolver’s Purple States of America," 13 Oct. 2018 The story follows an army veteran (Rambin) who returns to her hometown in the Ozarks while grappling with PTSD. Nojan Aminosharei, Harper's BAZAAR, "Leven Rambin Won't Let Her Moment Pass Her By," 28 Sep. 2018 Mark has been working on this thing for nearly a decade—unpacking the legacy of a formative figure in modern architecture while grappling with his faults as a human is no short-term goal. Kelsey Keith, Curbed, "The inaugural monthly column from Curbed’s editor-in-chief turns an eye to Postmodernism, following the loss of Robert Venturi," 24 Sep. 2018 Both Carolinas are grappling with the effects of severe flooding, with more flooding expected as rivers crest. Fox News, "The Latest: Trump assures South Carolina as flooding lingers," 19 Sep. 2018 His dismal approval ratings while the state grapples with a sputtering economy could hurt his party’s chance of holding on to power. Ella Nilsen, Vox, "Every August 14 primary election you should know about, briefly explained," 13 Aug. 2018 Shaw was grazed by a bullet on his elbow while grappling with the gunman. Amir Vera, CNN, "What we know about the Tennessee Waffle House shooting," 23 Apr. 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


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


see grapple entry 1

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Statistics for grapple

Last Updated

15 Nov 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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Comments on grapple

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


by force of circumstances

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