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 About six years ago, Chausse said, the event began instead to feature authors of memoirs about struggles many women at the shelter grapple with — addiction, domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and more., ", Massachusetts first lady," 19 Oct. 2019 Glucose grapples water to help keep ice crystals from growing large and gritty enough for our tongues to notice. Ali Bouzari,, "The molecular science behind a Larkspur shop’s blueberry ice cream," 27 Sep. 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The characters grapple with unrequited love, parent-child conflicts, lost friendships, pregnancy scares, depression, self-loathing, and other age-old adolescent issues presented for a distinctly Gen Z audience. Naomi Fry, Vogue, "Why the Fashion World Can’t Get Enough of Euphoria Makeup," 12 Nov. 2019 The answer will play a major role in shaping the future of the valley as residents grapple with sky-high demand for housing, soaring prices and painfully clogged roadways. Marisa Kendall, Mercury News, "Google v. Apple," 28 Oct. 2019 The move comes as California grapples with an extraordinary string of destructive wildfire seasons. Thomas Frank, Scientific American, "It’s Lights Out in California to Deal With Climate Risks," 10 Oct. 2019 Mathematicians are still grappling with both the magnitude of Lurie’s ideas and the unique way in which they were introduced. Quanta Magazine, "With Category Theory, Mathematics Escapes From Equality," 10 Oct. 2019 Khabar Lehariya The rash of rumours of child-napping and offline instances of violence over a six-week period found the police grappling for solutions. Nikita Joseph, Quartz India, "“They pluck out hearts of children”—how fake news is crippling Indian villages with anxiety," 17 Sep. 2019 Since implementing the scanning technology, the agency has grappled with privacy and discrimination issues. ProPublica, "When Transgender Travelers Walk Into Scanners, Invasive Searches Sometimes Wait on the Other Side," 26 Aug. 2019 This seems explicitly timed to the Detroit debates with the way the state of Michigan has grappled with the Flint water crisis. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Will the candidates talk housing, transportation at the next Democratic debates?," 30 July 2019 The hearing before Galluzzo came as courts across Central Florida are grappling with how to react to the allegations against Fierle, who had many active cases across multiple jurisdictions. David Harris,, "Orlando guardian accused of filing unauthorized ‘do not resuscitate’ orders resigns from Seminole cases," 19 July 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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Statistics for grapple

Last Updated

15 Nov 2019

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for grapple

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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