grap·​ple | \ ˈgra-pəl How to pronounce grapple (audio) \

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 How to pronounce grappling (audio) \

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 How to pronounce grappler (audio) \ 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

Here’s what to know about the drone attacks in Saudi Arabia and what lies ahead as the U.S. grapples with an attack against a key ally. Tara Law, Time, "'Locked and Loaded,' the U.S. Blames Iran for a Drone Attack Against Saudi Arabia. Here's What to Know," 16 Sep. 2019 Meyer fought back, and the Willard’s guests were treated to a furious grapple between the sexagenarians. H. W. Brands, Washington Post, "The bureaucratic battles and political skirmishes that shaped World War II," 14 June 2019 However this ends, all of it will unfold as the NBA grapples with an era of player movement that has the entire league asking questions without easy answers. Andrew Sharp,, "NBA's 2020 Watch List: Giannis is the Future in More Ways than One," 26 July 2019 At that point, the Dragon will hold position while Nick Hague, operating the station's robot arm, locks onto a grapple fixture. William Harwood, CBS News, "SpaceX cargo ship making third flight to space station," 24 July 2019 There was something painfully reassuring about watching Ada grapple and make peace with her other selves, embracing the daunting task of simply existing. The Atlantic, "What We’re Reading This Summer," 28 June 2019 On the flatbed: a shiny orange Kubota BX25D-1 tractor with all the fixings: mower deck, backhoe, front-end loader, grapple, brush hog. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The Year of the Tractor," 7 May 2016 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

What follows is a trippy, mind-bending journey for a bored corporate lawyer, Frank (Long), who, after grappling with the mundanity of his job, lets loose with a group of friends at a local bar, which leads to a wild night at a house party. Joey Nolfi,, "Watch Justin Long trip out in bonkers trailer for The Wave," 16 Sep. 2019 Six months later, Vohra and many others in this county of nearly 5 million are still grappling with a pair of attacks on two Christchurch mosques, Al Noor and the Linwood Islamic Center. NBC News, "Terror and hope: New Zealand reflects 6 months after Christchurch mosque attacks," 14 Sep. 2019 New Delhi initially grappled with largely peaceful anti-India movements in its portion of Kashmir. Washington Post, "Kashmiris allege night terror by Indian troops in crackdown," 14 Sep. 2019 Meanwhile, Lutheran synods and congregations are grappling with their role after the declaration amid heated immigration politics. Lisa Maria Garza,, "Florida congregations of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to determine what ‘sanctuary’ means," 13 Sep. 2019 The deputies grappled with Davis and fell to the floor, all while Davis yelled and refused to comply, according to the statement. Mary Grace Keller,, "Westminster man charged with assault after allegedly fighting two sheriff’s deputies," 12 Sep. 2019 Like the families, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath of Sept. 11. Karen Matthews, Anchorage Daily News, "On 18th anniversary, America vows to ‘never forget’ 9/11," 11 Sep. 2019 Like the families, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath of Sept. 11. Karen Matthews,, "Americans remember 9/11 as country still grapples with the attacks’ aftermath," 11 Sep. 2019 Eighteen years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath at ground zero, in Congress and beyond. Jennifer Peltz, Fortune, "U.S. Commemorates 9/11 as Its Aftermath Extends and Evolves," 11 Sep. 2019

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

20 Sep 2019

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

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).


involving a confidence or trust

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