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

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 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

And more closures may be on the way as hospitals grapple with a number of factors outside of their control while trying to manage their bottom lines. Chicago Tribune Staff,, "Daywatch: Lightfoot claps back at Ted Cruz, strikes loom as CPS students head back to school and other things to know to start your day," 4 Sep. 2019 The next two weeks will tell us a lot about the relative influence of each, as legislators grapple with Assembly Bill 5 and its attempt to codify a sweeping 2018 ruling by the California Supreme Court. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: On Labor Day, California workers struggle while unions prepare for major 2020 battle," 2 Sep. 2019 That will hamper security checks at Britain’s border, which will already be swamped in the case of a no-deal Brexit as officials grapple with new customs and immigration arrangements. NBC News, "Brexit: Risk experts fear violent consequences of a no-deal E. U. withdrawal," 1 Sep. 2019 What happens in this part of Colorado could be emblematic of other parts of the state and region as officials grapple with the difficult balancing act between energy development and wildlife conservation. The Denver Post, "Post Premium: Our best stories for the week of Aug. 26 – Sept. 1," 1 Sep. 2019 My teens were even worse—grappling with how to fit in, and what that even meant. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle Wrote About Her "Brutal" Early Years in an Old Blog Post on The Tig," 1 Sep. 2019 As states grapple with how to retain those willing to enter the profession, one official thinks he's found a way to make working behind bars more attractive. Tyler Kendall, CBS News, "Why can't prisons staff their facilities? One state might have a solution," 31 Aug. 2019 As fossil-fuel-dependent rivals grapple with concerns about climate change, Orsted has transformed itself into a darling of environmentalists and investors alike. The Economist, "Orsted has helped boost the prospects of offshore windpower," 31 Aug. 2019 State efforts to reverse this trend also have bogged down , particularly since the last recession, as governors and legislators grapple with surging pension and debt costs accumulated over more than seven decades. Keith Phaneuf,, "Most Connecticut cities and towns increased property taxes this year," 26 Aug. 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

6 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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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