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

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of grapple in a Sentence

Noun 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 Verb 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 The Blacklist As Liz (Megan Boone) continues pushing a source for answers, Red (James Spader) and the task force grapple with the implications of her actions. Los Angeles Times, "What’s on TV Friday: ’20/20: Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor’," 19 Nov. 2020 As officials from Dublin to Prague grapple with the resurgent pandemic, their efforts to limit the virus’s spread with softer measures -- from mandatory mask-wearing to partial curfews -- aren’t working. Marthe Fourcade,, "Lockdowns Near as European Governments Run Out of Options," 27 Oct. 2020 Williams, a Black woman, said that Texans are ready for change as the nation and the state grapple with the pandemic and a reckoning over long-standing issues of racial justice. Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY, "As nation grapples with COVID-19 and systemic racism, Democrats look to activate voters down ballot," 17 Oct. 2020 While parts of the developed world grapple with issues of systemic discrimination and gender imbalances in the workplace, Japan’s government is, by and large, keeping calm and carrying on. Simon Denyer, Washington Post, "Japan’s new cabinet looks a lot like its old (male-dominated) cabinet," 16 Sep. 2020 Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and more than 20 people are dead as officials from California to Washington grapple with out-of-control wildfires. Spencer Neale, Washington Examiner, "California fires continue spreading as officials deal with a 'mass fatality incident'," 12 Sep. 2020 Repeatedly, as science and government grapple with understanding covid-19’s patterns and devastating impacts, arts leaders here — as elsewhere — have had to build and rebuild safety plans for both arts workers and audiences. Washington Post, "New York City can’t rebound without Broadway. And Broadway’s road back is uncertain.," 8 Sep. 2020 While Indian apps like Chingari and Mitron grapple with privacy policies—or lack thereof in the latter’s case—Triller has been stressing on its security ethic. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "TikTok’s American rival Triller just stepped up its game in India," 25 Aug. 2020 Their duel ended with a grapple, each holding a dagger at the other’s throat—at which point, both men decided to stop. National Geographic, "En garde! Why France was the dueling capital of Europe," 19 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Tonight’s draft is taking place under unprecedented circumstances as the league continues to grapple with changes to the NBA calendar brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to rage across the country. oregonlive, "NBA draft 2020: Picks 1-60, trades, Trail Blazers pick CJ Elleby, Payton Pritchard to Boston Celtics," 18 Nov. 2020 Alaska continues to grapple with an ever-increasing COVID-19 surge, with the second-highest number of cases reported in a single day on Friday. Annie Berman, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska reports 2 deaths, record hospitalizations and 589 new virus cases Friday," 14 Nov. 2020 Mier, 79, is a military vet, a former public health official and former San Antonian with lots on his mind as the nation continues to grapple not only with rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations but its racial history. Elaine Ayala,, "Ayala: Time is running out to talk to the veterans in our lives and to learn from their stories," 12 Nov. 2020 The restrictions come as New York City continues to grapple with an increase in violent crime that began over the summer in a similar fashion to other cities. Fox News, "Could new Cuomo COVID restrictions cause an uptick in violent crime?," 12 Nov. 2020 As Louisville continues to grapple with the fallout of the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, voters will decide five contested elections for Louisville Metro Council seats. Darcy Costello, The Courier-Journal, "What Metro Council candidates in 5 races say is key issue, path forward on racial justice," 30 Oct. 2020 Levinson, who is 69 and in good health, understands the Big Ten’s decision to bar fans from games this season as the country continues to grapple with COVID-19. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football fan has been to every home game since 1964. The streak ends Saturday.," 30 Oct. 2020 Cell comes as the international scientific community continues to grapple with the potential use of Crispr for editing human embryos that would be intended for creating a pregnancy and birth. Amy Dockser Marcus, WSJ, "Crispr Gene Editing Can Lead to Big Mistakes in Human Embryos," 29 Oct. 2020 The new statistics are a sign of the robust online shopping that analysts have predicted will dominate this holiday season as the U.S. continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune, "Target saw record sales from its Deal Days this week," 16 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for grapple

Time Traveler

The first known use of grapple was in 1530

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Statistics for grapple

Last Updated

22 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Grapple.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.

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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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