spiral

adjective
spi·​ral | \ ˈspī-rəl How to pronounce spiral (audio) \

Definition of spiral

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : winding around a center or pole and gradually receding from or approaching it the spiral curve of a watch spring
b : helical
c : spiral-bound a spiral notebook
2 : of or relating to the advancement to higher levels through a series of cyclical movements

spiral

noun

Definition of spiral (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : the path of a point in a plane moving around a central point while continuously receding from or approaching it
b : a three-dimensional curve (such as a helix) with one or more turns about an axis
2 : a single turn or coil in a spiral object
3 : something having a spiral form as:
b(1) : a spiral flight
(2) : a kick or pass in which a football rotates on its long axis while moving through the air
4 : a continuously spreading and accelerating increase or decrease wage spirals

spiral

verb
spiraled or spiralled; spiraling or spiralling

Definition of spiral (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to go and especially to rise or fall in a spiral course costs spiraled upward

transitive verb

1 : to form into a spiral
2 : to cause to spiral

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Other Words from spiral

Adjective

spirally \ ˈspī-​rə-​lē How to pronounce spirally (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms for spiral

Synonyms: Adjective

coiling, corkscrew, helical, involute, screwlike, winding

Synonyms: Verb

coil, corkscrew, curl, entwine, twine, twist, wind

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Examples of spiral in a Sentence

Adjective

a spiral staircase takes visitors up into the Statue of Liberty

Noun

The glider flew in a wide spiral over the field. The quarterback threw a tight spiral to the receiver.

Verb

Smoke spiraled up from the chimney. The airplane spiraled to the ground and crashed. The unemployment rate has been spiraling upward. The stock market is spiraling downward. Let's deal with this crisis before it spirals out of control.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Autonomous, electric vehicles could be lowered into the system on wall-less elevators the size of two cars or spiral ramps. Amanda Lee Myers, The Seattle Times, "Elon Musk’s new tunnel ‘a little rough around the edges’," 19 Dec. 2018 The little book was American-made with sturdy paper and secure spiral wire binding. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "My Favorite Little Notebook Costs $4 And Just Might Change Your Life," 22 Nov. 2018 Climb a spiral staircase to access 10 cozy rooms, all with tatami natural-fiber mats and beds hugged by fusuma sliding doors adorned with monochromatic Japanese landscapes. Michaela Trimble, Vogue, "An Insider’s Guide to the Little Tokyo of Mexico City," 23 Jan. 2019 Astrophysicists have two main ideas to explain what’s making these spiral arms. Joshua Sokol, WIRED, "These Spinning Disks of Gas and Dust Reveal How Planets Get Made," 28 May 2018 The spiral staircase, which measures over 4 meters tall—or about 13 feet—was the original structure found on the Tower in 1889. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Make This Piece Of The Eiffel Tower A Part Of Your Home For $45K," 21 Nov. 2018 About 99% of the 6 billion steps in the spiral staircase of DNA’s double helix are the same for all of us. Robert Plomin, WSJ, "Our Fortunetelling Genes," 15 Nov. 2018 When things don't go according to plan, Dr. Witkin says many of her patients spiral. Colleen Leahey Mckeegan, Marie Claire, "How to Stay Sane While Struggling to Get Pregnant," 1 Oct. 2018 Leaving her hair parted in the middle, Gigi added just a touch of spiral curl to the ends of her hair. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Gigi Hadid Wore Silver Eyeshadow," 7 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The set includes house banners, a movable spiral staircase, a potions room and more, as well as 10 minifigs from the beloved series. Rachel Siegel, The Seattle Times, "Hottest toys for Christmas (unicorn poop included)," 28 Nov. 2018 The new research, from the Australian RMIT University, says that by twisting that light into a spiral the transmission speed could be increased by orders of magnitude. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "New Fiber Optic Cable Could Make the Internet 100 Times Faster," 24 Oct. 2018 Upstairs, via a tight spiral staircase, are two suites with monochrome marble bathrooms and more cabinets lining the bedroom walls. Ruth Bloomfield, WSJ, "A London Rental Reaches for the Stars," 5 Sep. 2018 Axe, on the other hand, is sent into a spiral after Grigor Andolov (John Malkovich) decides to pull $1.5 billion of his seed money from the firm. refinery29.com, "Billions Season 3, Episode 10 Recap: "Texas Roadkill Chili"," 28 May 2018 Lisa struggled with feeling like a failure, and began on a downward spiral. Megan Ditrolio, Marie Claire, "What It's Like to Grow Up in a Cult," 31 Oct. 2018 Apple’s rise has been propelled by the sustained success of the iPhone developed under late co-founder Steve Jobs, a product visionary who helped revive the company from a death spiral in the late 1990s. Amrith Ramkumar, WSJ, "Apple’s Market Cap Hits $1 Trillion," 2 Aug. 2018 Young’s own father, Willard, was murdered when Young was 8 years old, putting Young on a downward spiral. Emilie Eaton, San Antonio Express-News, "As activists gather, court denies request to halt San Antonio man’s execution," 10 July 2018 The question becomes how to break the death spiral the characters feel trapped in. Glenn Kenny, New York Times, "Spike Lee’s ‘Pass Over,’ an Offbeat Melding of Cinema and Theater," 11 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The protests began on Dec. 19 against the spiraling cost of bread but intensified into calls for Mr. Bashir to step down. Nicholas Bariyo, WSJ, "Sudan’s Deadly Protests Pressure President’s Three-Decade Rule," 28 Dec. 2018 New anti-carrier weapons threaten their existence—as do the spiraling costs to build them in the first place. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "As It Begins Its Second Century, Is the Aircraft Carrier Obsolete?," 5 Nov. 2018 The banks stopped giving the company access to day-to-day financing, bankruptcy court documents said, and the business began to spiral downward. Costas Paris, WSJ, "Alleged Fraud Surprises Activist Investors in Shipping Fuel Company," 6 Nov. 2018 The researchers showed that the BEC only takes on particular states that relate to spiraling around the donut. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Donut-shaped BEC might be key to fault-protected quantum logic," 5 Nov. 2018 And the obvious one here is Venezuela, which is dealing with a spiraling economic and political crisis under Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Decoding Bolsonaro’s “make Brazil great” foreign policy," 31 Oct. 2018 An anti-violence march in Chicago briefly closed Lake Shore Drive on Thursday afternoon, as protesters demonstrated against the city's spiraling crime crisis and called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step down. Alex Pappas, Fox News, "Chicago protesters demanding Rahm Emanuel's resignation march to Wrigley Field, closing major roads," 2 Oct. 2018 The federal government might have a spiraling debt crisis, but Arizona's cities, counties and state agencies are going in the other direction. Russ Wiles, azcentral, "See where taxpayers are on the hook for the most debt in Arizona," 24 June 2018 But not raising rates fast enough could allow inflation to spiral out of control, driving up prices and potentially plunging the economy back into a recession. New York Times, "Fed Raises Interest Rates and Signals 2 More Increases Are Coming," 13 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'spiral.' 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 spiral

Adjective

1551, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1834, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for spiral

Adjective

Medieval Latin spiralis, from Latin spira coil — more at spire

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Statistics for spiral

Last Updated

6 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spiral

The first known use of spiral was in 1551

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More Definitions for spiral

spiral

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of spiral

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: winding or circling around a central point and usually getting closer to or farther away from it : shaped or moving like a spiral

spiral

noun

English Language Learners Definition of spiral (Entry 2 of 3)

: a circular curving line that goes around a central point while getting closer to or farther away from it
: a situation in which something continuously increases, decreases, or gets worse
American football : a kick or throw in which the ball spins while moving through the air

spiral

verb

English Language Learners Definition of spiral (Entry 3 of 3)

: to move in a circle around a central point while getting closer to or farther away from it : to move in a spiral
: to greatly increase, decrease, or get worse in a continuous and usually fast and uncontrolled way

spiral

adjective
spi·​ral | \ ˈspī-rəl How to pronounce spiral (audio) \

Kids Definition of spiral

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : winding or circling around a center and gradually getting closer to or farther away from it a spiral seashell
2 : circling around a center like the thread of a screw a spiral staircase

spiral

noun

Kids Definition of spiral (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a single turn or coil in a spiral object
2 : something having a form that winds or circles around a center

spiral

verb
spiraled or spiralled; spiraling or spiralling

Kids Definition of spiral (Entry 3 of 3)

: to move in or as if in a winding or circular path Smoke spiraled from the chimney. … an immense caldron … sent great clouds of savory steam spiraling slowly to the ceiling.— Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

spiral

adjective
spi·​ral | \ ˈspī-rəl How to pronounce spiral (audio) \

Medical Definition of spiral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : winding around a center or pole and gradually receding from or approaching it
b : helical the spiral structure of DNA
2 : being a fracture in which the break is produced by twisting apart the bone a double spiral break

Other Words from spiral

spirally \ -​rə-​lē How to pronounce spirally (audio) \ adverb

spiral

noun

Medical Definition of spiral (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the path of a point in a plane moving around a central point while continuously receding from or approaching it
2 : a three-dimensional curve (as a helix) with one or more turns about an axis the double spiral of DNA

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More from Merriam-Webster on spiral

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with spiral

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spiral

Spanish Central: Translation of spiral

Nglish: Translation of spiral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spiral for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about spiral

Comments on spiral

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