spiral

adjective
spi·ral | \ˈspī-rəl \

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:

a : spiral galaxy

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 \ adverb

Synonyms for spiral

Synonyms: Adjective

coiling, corkscrew, helical, 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

The Lake Geneva canopy tour includes nine zip lines, five sky bridges and three spiral staircases. Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Here's 7 ways you and your kids can explore new heights in and around Milwaukee," 28 June 2018 Designed by architect William Massie, the residence seems to be organized around a spiral metal staircase on three floors, with each level offering a linear space and scenic views framed on each end. Jenny Xie, Curbed, "One-of-a-kind modern house in the Rockies asks $625K," 28 June 2018 Apple News is not a social media site, and so can avoid some of the network effects that help misinformation spiral out of control. Emily Dreyfuss, WIRED, "Apple Tries to Avoid Facebook's Mistakes With 2018 Midterms," 26 June 2018 And amusement there will be—a spiral slide and merry go-round will cater to mall-goers of all ages. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "Playful shopping mall designed by Will Alsop to be built in Kenya," 10 July 2018 In the other: those who believe fewer people will enroll in college as tuition costs spiral out of control and alternatives to the traditional degree emerge. Jeffrey J. Selingo, Washington Post, "The future of college education: Students for life, computer advisers and campuses everywhere," 6 July 2018 The park will have a climbing tower and ladder, a spinning bowl, spiral nets, stepping stones and more structures over Colts branding and blue swirls. Amy Bartner, Indianapolis Star, "Downtown Canal group not thrilled with ‘plastic-y’ park, destruction of trees," 14 June 2018 The Obamus coronatus was small -- about 1/2 inch long -- and had spiral grooves on its surface. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "500-million-year-old sea creature named after President Obama," 21 June 2018 Image The five-level home has eight bedrooms, five bathrooms and two kitchens, connected by a turreted spiral stone staircase. Vivian Marino, New York Times, "House Hunting in … England," 13 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This second one allowed an inning to spiral and hope to return. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros overcome 4-run deficit to defeat Rangers in 10 innings," 4 July 2018 Standing 13 feet high on the Afghan side and 11 feet on the Pakistani side, sharp spirals of silver barbed wire are cradled at the top of each. NBC News, "Pakistan is building a fence along border with Afghanistan," 17 May 2018 The film follows a bourgeois family on a ski trip in the alps, only for a single moment of telling cowardice from the father to send the entire unit into a spiral of doubt, passive-aggression, and shame. Tom Philip, GQ, "Hulu Might Be the Best Movie Streaming Website," 3 May 2018 The Phillies won the World Series in 2008, made it back there a year later, then went into a downward spiral that has included six straight playoff-less, non-winning seasons. Paul Domowitch, Philly.com, "Eagles must do well in NFL draft to remain Super Bowl contenders, and Howie Roseman knows it," 27 Apr. 2018 On Thursday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the latest effort to send ACA markets into the proverbial death spiral. Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Administration Aims to Steer People Toward Junk Health Plans Over Obamacare," 11 July 2018 Burlington Center, on the other hand, has been in a death spiral for nearly a decade. Kevin Riordan, Philly.com, "All sales final: N.J.'s 'worst' and 'saddest' shopping mall is going out of business," 9 July 2018 When this insurance regime interacts with Detroit’s high rates of car theft and the shoddy state of Michigan’s roads, a death spiral ensues. The Economist, "Why Detroit is the most expensive city in America to buy car insurance," 5 July 2018 He was fired 2 ½ seasons later and so began the death spiral into the abyss. Mike Bianchi, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Here's hoping Steve Clifford isn't another good coach who Orlando Magic turn into a bad one," 30 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Prices are spiraling up fast, and the number of homes on the market continues to plunge. Ely Portillo, charlotteobserver, "Charlotte home prices keep rising. That means more challenges for buyers and sellers. | Charlotte Observer," 9 May 2018 Located just below Columbus Circle at 235 West 57th Street, the new store is housed in a sprawling 47,000-square-foot, three-story glass structure, with a giant wooden tree sculpture below a spiraling staircase. Sarah Spellings, The Cut, "The Woman Creating an Avant-Garde Destination at Nordstrom’s New Manhattan Store," 9 Apr. 2018 And the kid did it on the last play with a 41-yard spinning, spiralling miracle. Mark Heim, AL.com, "Vegas tabs Alabama favorite to win 2019 College Football Playoff national championship," 9 Jan. 2018 But along with those expectations come the reality that things could spiral out of control with the failure to reach those lofty goals. William Guillory, NOLA.com, "Pelicans' playoff success leads to added recognition, but what happens next could be telling," 26 May 2018 Behind the peso weakness is growing concern that President Mauricio Macri is dragging his feet on taking the possibly painful steps needed to revamp the economy -- and that both inflation and government spending are spiraling dangerously high. Carolina Millan, Bloomberg.com, "Argentina Raises Rates to 40% After Peso Selloff Prompts Third Abrupt Increase," 4 May 2018 Priority’s expenses were quickly spiraling to $1 million, between the arbitration fees, defense costs and other legal bills, said Dan Pipitone, the Houston lawyer who represented Priority. L.m. Sixel, San Antonio Express-News, "The ties that bind in mandatory arbitration are unraveling," 17 Apr. 2018 Romo, a +0.3 handicap, made three birdies on his front nine en route to an even-par 36 and made good par saves as 10, 11 and 12, but things spiraled out of control toward the end of the round. Daniel Rapaport, SI.com, "Live Blog: Tony Romo Looks to Improve on First-Round 77 in PGA Tour Debut," 23 Mar. 2018 Over the subsequent years, the Arab Spring faded into an Arab Winter as Syria spiraled into civil war and Egypt faced an authoritarian backlash to its once-promising revolution. Michael Hardy, WIRED, "Where the Holy Land Meets the Modern World," 12 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.

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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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Learn More about spiral

Phrases Related to spiral

downward spiral

spiral staircase

upward spiral

Statistics for spiral

Last Updated

2 Oct 2018

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 \

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 \

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 \ 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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Comments on spiral

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