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, 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

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 The spiral staircase is an original piece from the ’80s. Laura Dannen Redman, Condé Nast Traveler, "What to Do in Singapore: The (Mini) Black Book," 14 Nov. 2018 The maze-like manor and signature spiral staircase in the library remain intact. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Haunting of Hill House," 22 Oct. 2018 Inside, the house surrounds a spiral staircase that leads from the main bedroom up to a bathroom and eventually to an open terrace where visitors can sit and take in the mountains. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Undulating bamboo house looks like it’s wearing a hat," 24 July 2018 Before heading to the field during the middle of a warm afternoon, about 35 players had packed the classroom and jotted down diagrams of the plays in spiral notebooks. Charles Rich, latimes.com, "Hoover football puts on thinking caps for summer," 3 July 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There doesn’t seem to be any clear way out of this spiral, particularly in light of our current political climate. Sean Illing, Vox, "How corporate cash bought higher education," 14 Nov. 2018 The direction of the spiral is determined by the Coriolis effect—a byproduct of the Earth's rotation. Douglas Fox, Popular Mechanics, "How Do Hurricanes Form? Disaster Science Explained," 10 Sep. 2018 No one had actually read Hogan’s book, nor anything about Smithson’s creation of the spiral, which some say reflects Fibonacci’s golden mean. Anne Slowey, Condé Nast Traveler, "Fear and Self-Loathing in the American Southwest," 25 July 2018 Both borrow from a decades-old theory of galactic spirals. Joshua Sokol, WIRED, "These Spinning Disks of Gas and Dust Reveal How Planets Get Made," 28 May 2018 Image The heated language in the days before the strike focused as much, if not more, on Russia than on Syria, underscoring the dangers of a spiral into a more dangerous confrontation between the two former Cold War adversaries. New York Times, "President Trump Talked Tough. But His Strike on Syria Was Restrained.," 13 Apr. 2018 Myriad accounts of Junior Seau’s long spiral into mental illness and suicide strongly suggest no one person could have said or done enough to save him. Tod Leonard, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Six years after Junior Seau's death, sister keeps his wish to raise brain trauma awareness," 30 Mar. 2018 From the pasta necklace made for Meghan by a fan, to the spiral Tattoo Pendant that represents New Zealand, Meghan's tour jewelry has been a continual showstopper. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle's Unique Necklace Is a Symbol of Strength and Integrity," 31 Oct. 2018 Which is why their sales usually send loyalists into an impulse-shopping spiral. Tara Gonzalez, Glamour, "73 Designer Pieces for Under $100 on Sale at The Outnet," 27 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Since the beginning of last year, the International Monetary Fund has stepped in 16 times with funding for countries that have spiraling debts or falling currencies, most recently a $50 billion package for Argentina. Christopher Whittall, WSJ, "Investors Doubt Turkey Will Easily Fall Into IMF Safety Net," 8 Aug. 2018 This symbiosis spiraled upward, allowing eukaryote cells to become far bigger, far more complex, than any cell before. Carl Zimmer, STAT, "Shot through with microbes: How our bodies adapt to a hidden world of bacteria," 30 May 2018 Seinfeld and David devised a simple formula: small stories based on insignificant problems that spiraled into bigger consequences. Marc Freeman, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Seinfeld' Finale at 20: Hidden Tales From the Vault of a Comedian's Bizarro World," 13 May 2018 If not treated quickly enough, keratitis can spiral into a corneal ulcer, or open sore on the front of your eye. Korin Miller, SELF, "5 Entirely Preventable Eye Injuries Doctors See Way Too Often," 1 Nov. 2018 USA TODAY Sports Danuel House provided a fun moment for a team that is spiraling toward posting the league's worst record and a prominent place in the NBA's draft lottery. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, "Danuel House of Phoenix Suns provides dunk of year candidate vs. Golden State Warriors," 1 Apr. 2018 That can cause someone to spiral back into addiction. Beth Warren, The Courier-Journal, "Tired of going to funerals, this doctor treats addiction with drugs," 21 June 2018 For example, where ballet requires dancers to rise on their toes, Graham asks them to spiral up and down, moving deep into their legs and twisting. Domenica Bongiovanni, Indianapolis Star, "Why the lead dancer in 'Appalachian Spring' must be a 'strong and complex woman'," 30 May 2018 This device, when placed on the top of a fresh pineapple with the top cut off, will core and spiral-slice your fruit, leaving just the core and pineapple shell. Emily Spicer, San Antonio Express-News, "How to make piña coladas served in a pineapple," 11 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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Statistics for spiral

Last Updated

11 Dec 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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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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