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
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

Synonyms: Verb

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 Experts do not expect the Ugandan outbreak to spiral out of control. New York Times, "For the Third Time, W.H.O. Declines to Declare the Ebola Outbreak an Emergency," 14 June 2019 Harvard University scientists reported Tuesday that this massive structure has been hiding out in the Milky Way galaxy’s spiral arm closest to Earth. Washington Post, "Titanic wave of star-forming gases found in Milky Way," 7 Jan. 2020 More interstellar tourists will be passing through our neighborhood, which is just one tiny corner of one spiral arm full of stars that juts out from a supermassive black hole. New York Times, "What We Learned in Space and Astronomy News in 2019," 23 Dec. 2019 The Orion Nebula spans approximately 40 light years, according to NASA, and is located in the same spiral arm of our galaxy as the Sun. Fox News, "Stunning NASA image shows Great Nebula in Orion," 31 Oct. 2019 The team identified three discrete patches of stars, with ages spanning 20 million to 260 million years, that are narrowly distributed along several of the Milky Way’s spiral arms. Nadia Drake, National Geographic, "The Milky Way is warped around the edges, new star map confirms," 1 Aug. 2019 Branches emerge from the central leader much like a spiral staircase around a central pole would. Calvin Finch, ExpressNews.com, "Calvin Finch: Your guide to pruning fruit trees and bushes," 23 Jan. 2020 There are two master suites on opposite sides of the former sanctuary, plus another bedroom and bathroom accessed by floating stairs as well as two sleeping lofts, reached by a spiral staircase, with beds and convertible sofas. oregonlive, "Bend visitors can stay in a vaulted, historic church that’s now a vacation rental," 20 Jan. 2020 Some robotic mowers will trim the perimeter before moving into the main area and other mowers can be programmed to cut a V or spiral pattern where the grass is particularly thick. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Robot Mowers to Take Care of the Lawn for You," 17 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Most had preexisting conditions such as asthma and needed only a trigger to send them into a downward spiral. NBC News, "As Australia's wildfires rage, health concerns mount among experts and victims," 9 Jan. 2020 Some 132,000 paying visitors ascend the spiral staircase that winds through her innards each year. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Spend a Night in This 65-Foot-Tall, Elephant-Shaped Airbnb," 4 Mar. 2020 Petite spiral staircases and busts of philosophers and writers line the shelves, which are packed with books that are hundreds of years old (the room itself was constructed in the early 1700s). Taylore Glynn, Marie Claire, "The Instagram Guide to Dublin," 20 Jan. 2020 The home opens to a grand marble foyer and an enormous spiral staircase designed by Pei himself. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "Award-Winning Architect I.M. Pei’s New York City Townhouse Is on the Market," 23 Oct. 2019 Doyle will display original plans that show one of the penthouses’ spiral staircase linking a balcony to a private roof patio. oregonlive, "Portland’s only co-op apartment, Park Vista, is 60 years old. Here’s what’s for sale now," 17 Oct. 2019 The entry has two-story ceilings and a sweeping spiral staircase. Emilia Benton, Houston Chronicle, "Home with guesthouse available in Hunter’s Creek Village," 7 Sep. 2019 The spiral into dependency in this case is truly sad and maybe even preventable. OrlandoSentinel.com, "Best to prevent opioids: Letters," 17 May 2018 That pre-merger spiral had been going on for much longer than that, emitting gravitational waves with much lower frequencies. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "LISA pathfinder mission a glorious success," 12 Feb. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Gary He/Reuters As the crisis caused by the coronavirus continues to spiral out of control, the vast ramifications of the global economy’s screeching to a halt are already on display at one of most important companies in the United States: Boeing. David Gelles, New York Times, "Boeing Mirrors the Economy. It Doesn’t Look Good.," 17 Mar. 2020 The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day with a loss of around 2,000 points Monday, part of a global market rout that saw spiraling sell-offs in the energy sector amid the biggest drop for crude oil since the Gulf War in 1991. NBC News, "Coronavirus: Markets rally, Italy on lockdown, and Trump allies under self-quarantine," 10 Mar. 2020 Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized his successor Michael Bloomberg for allowing the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program to spiral out of control and for now disowning the policy on the campaign trail. Kerry Picket, Washington Examiner, "Giuliani slams Bloomberg over stop-and-frisk policy: He let it get 'out of control'," 16 Feb. 2020 Morrison has faced heavy criticism for his climate policies and response to the wildfires as well growing anger and frustration from the public as the fires continue to spiral out of control. Aimee Lewis, CNN, "Tennis star Nick Kyrgios criticizes Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for 'slow' wildfires response," 9 Jan. 2020 However, our decades-long limited war with Iran has yet to spiral out of control. Time, "After Soleimani Killing, War With Iran Will Likely Continue As It Has for Decades," 8 Jan. 2020 As Daniel becomes increasingly enmeshed in his fake identity, things begin to spiral out of control. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, "Mrs. Doubtfire Broadway musical gets full cast, opening date," 16 Oct. 2019 Outside the Kentucky locker room, many wondered if the season was about to spiral out of control, dealing a critical blow to the momentum of three consecutive bowl seasons and a historic 2018. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "How getting to know their teammates helped Kentucky football players beat Arkansas," 13 Oct. 2019 Once the entire Kim family is assembled within the Park household, things unsurprisingly start to spiral out of control; though, because this is a Bong Joon-ho film, conflicts develop in a manner that’s hard to predict. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Less You Know About Parasite, The Better," 10 Oct. 2019

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

Time Traveler for spiral

Time Traveler

The first known use of spiral was in 1551

See more words from the same year

Statistics for spiral

Last Updated

19 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Spiral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spiral. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for spiral

spiral

adjective
How to pronounce spiral (audio)

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

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

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

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!