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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But what really caught our eye was Underwood’s two-story dressing room, complete with a vanity and full-length mirror on one floor and a decadent closet above—connected by a spiral staircase. Cator Sparks, House Beautiful, "Carrie Underwood Is Selling Her Tennessee Home," 11 Mar. 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Sadly, Jo's spiral continued and led to a heated fight with Alex at the end of the episode. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Grey's Anatomy' Fans Are EXPLODING Over What Happened With Jo and Alex," 19 Apr. 2019 This desire sent me on a deep, deep online shopping spiral, seeking an affordable alternative. Tara Gonzalez, Glamour, "We Found the Best Spring Dress Trend—And It's Under $150," 9 Apr. 2019 Even as the season—and potentially his Chelsea tenure—spiral away from him, Sarri is stubbornly sticking to his guns. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Chelsea May Have to Hit the Reset Button, Again," 22 Feb. 2019 The guilty verdict was the culmination of a long downward spiral for Cosby, who was accused by dozens of women of similar crimes after public interest in his rape allegations was renewed. Fox News, "FOX NEWS FIRST: New allegations against Kavanaugh throw confirmation battle into chaos; Trump to address U.N.," 24 Sep. 2018 Milk prices have been in a downward spiral since 2014, when a hundred weight of milk — about 10 gallons — went for $25.70. Kate Talerico, The Courier-Journal, "As Dean Milk contract ends, some farmers pick up a last-minute hope," 29 June 2018 The day before the ceremony, a school official called Shaw with concerns about one boy who had been brought back to school, but now seemed to be in a downward spiral. Talia Richman, baltimoresun.com, "Students savor second chance to graduate with help from 'Re-Engagement Center'," 10 May 2018 This is what leads to a spiral into fear, isolation, and shame — feelings that prime us for depression, anxiety, and weight-cycling. Jaclyn London, Ms, Rd, Cdn, Good Housekeeping, "Willpower Is a Weight-Loss Scam That's Fueling the Diet Industry," 22 Feb. 2019 Newsletter Sign-up Hong Kong is now the world’s fifth busiest port, according to Lloyd’s List Maritime Intelligence, with volume on a downward spiral since 2012. Joanne Chiu, WSJ, "Hong Kong Port Alliance Challenged by Cargo Owners," 13 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

After advancing into the magnificent courtyard, viewers ascended a spiraling staircase illuminated by Marcel Wander’s Venezia lanterns. Max Maeckler, Vogue, "The Most Mesmerizing Design Moments of Salone del Mobile," 18 Apr. 2019 As Toller spirals downward, Schrader reveals how caught up the minister is in himself. J.r. Jones, Chicago Reader, "Paul Schrader’s First Reformed finds pride at the root of despair," 24 May 2018 Big coils spiraled to the top of everyone’s Instagram feed this week. Vogue, "The Best Beauty Instagrams of the Week: Imaan Hammam, Lameka Fox, and More," 31 Mar. 2019 After that, Toby spirals into a depressive state and, at one point, breaks down crying in the couple's kitchen. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Chris Sullivan Reveals How Toby’s Depression Took a Toll on Him," 19 Mar. 2019 With each complete cycle of wiggling or spiraling, the electrons emit a photon. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Single-beam laser becomes multi-beam laser by kicking electrons," 5 Dec. 2018 My first review unit spiraled into a bootloop that Google could not diagnose and had to replace. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "Google Pixel Slate review: slapdash," 27 Nov. 2018 Qualcomm ending plans to buy Dutch chip maker NXP for $44 billion made the transaction a prominent victim of spiraling trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Nishant Mohan, WSJ, "Qualcomm to Buy Back $10 Billion of Its Shares Over Next Month," 31 July 2018 But the unspoken rivalry spiraled out of control when Brandy appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to perform the track without Monica, which possibly was a jab at her for using the song’s title for the name of her album. Nicole Sands, PEOPLE.com, "The Song Is Hers: Did Brandy Shade Monica with Sassy New 'The Boy Is Mine' Lyric?," 9 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about spiral

Statistics for spiral

Last Updated

3 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spiral

The first known use of spiral was in 1551

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

What made you want to look up spiral? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to speak slightingly about or to degrade

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!