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 grapple (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 grapple (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 Even in the noir climax, ‘Beast Beast’s’ ideas about validation and integrity are worth a grapple. Mark Olsen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Indie Focus: Sad Swedish whimsy in ‘About Endlessness’," 30 Apr. 2021 Conflicts and chaos ensue as the teens in the original crew grapple with their hormones and how to cooperate and coexist. Tony Bradley, Forbes, "‘Voyagers’ Employs Innovative Technology To Deliver A Sci-Fi Thriller," 9 Apr. 2021 As companies in virtually every market grapple with shortages, perhaps no industry is being hit harder than autos., "Rubber scarcity creates new headache for beleaguered automakers," 13 Apr. 2021 Palazzo said he and the rest of the school grapple with the what-ifs: If school had been open, would there have been a chance to save Ava? Sally Ho And Camille Fassett, Chron, "AP Exclusive: Pandemic means far fewer eyes on kids' welfare," 29 Mar. 2021 The bathrooms at Satyricon became private bacchanals, a shared snort or arm jab sometimes leading to a grunting, clothes-twisting grapple. oregonlive, "Legendary Satyricon club offered sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, epitomized a Portland that is gone forever," 16 Mar. 2021 Other governments are watching Israel churn through the world’s fastest vaccination program and grapple with the ethics of using the shots as diplomatic currency and power. Laurie Kellman, Anchorage Daily News, "Vaccination ‘passports’ may open society, but inequity looms," 26 Feb. 2021 Other governments are watching Israel churn through the world’s fastest vaccination program and grapple with the ethics of using the shots as diplomatic currency and power. Laurie Kellman, The Christian Science Monitor, "Israel's 'green passport' raises concerns about discrimination," 26 Feb. 2021 As that judicial process continues, lawyers and expert witnesses will doubtless grapple in court over these and other points of dispute. D.j. Tice, Star Tribune, "The challenge of a fair trial for Chauvin," 20 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb That's the big question that he and Grace and by extension, all of our characters are going to have to grapple with now. Dalton Ross,, "Fear the Walking Dead showrunners explain that devastating twist ending," 10 May 2021 Now, close to the end of the pandemic, policymakers have to grapple with a far less straightforward task: how to transition over 20 million borrowers back into normal repayment on October 1. Preston Cooper, Forbes, "We Need To Be Ready For Student Loan Payments To Resume In October," 12 Apr. 2021 In his first address to Congress Wednesday, President Biden called on lawmakers to meet the moment a week after the Chauvin verdict, arguing that the nation continues to grapple with a disproportionate number of Black men being killed by police. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, "Derek Chauvin conviction: DOJ reportedly had 'secret' plan to arrest ex-cop if acquitted," 29 Apr. 2021 The announcement mirrors the state's goal of vaccinating 70% of all Michigander's 16 and older, but comes as Michigan continues to grapple with the nation's worst pandemic outbreak. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, "Gov. Whitmer unveils plan to tie Michigan vaccination rates to easing COVID-19 rules," 29 Apr. 2021 That spirit of inclusion was long overdue, and felt especially welcome at a time when the country continues to grapple with issues of racial justice. oregonlive, "2021 Oscars: Refreshingly diverse winners, but a lackluster show (review)," 25 Apr. 2021 Politicians quickly responded to yet another instance of mass violence, as the country continues to grapple with the police killings of Daunte Wright and 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Danielle Campoamor,, "What We Know About The Indianapolis FedEx Factory Shooting," 16 Apr. 2021 The decision to go fully digital comes as coronavirus cases continue to surge nationwide, leaving the nation to grapple with the consequences, including the economic impact. Ashley Novak, CNN, "US Postal Service's 'Operation Santa' letter campaign goes digital in 108th year," 18 Nov. 2020 The obvious question—one that the report doesn’t really grapple with—is whether the technological advances themselves made the arc of these companies from idealistic startups to trillion-dollar predators inevitable. Steven Levy, Wired, "Does the House Antitrust Report Mean That Tech Is Evil?," 9 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

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Grapple.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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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