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

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Other Words from spiral

Adjective

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

Synonyms for spiral

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

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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 One photo depicted a spiral staircase in the building, while the other showed an Italian flag beside a gray photo of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Eric Todisco, PEOPLE.com, "Teresa Giudice Visits Italian Consulate Ahead of Reunion with Husband Joe Giudice," 5 Nov. 2019 That attack killed 40 Indian soldiers and caused tensions to spiral upward between India and Pakistan, bringing the two nuclear-armed nations unsettlingly close to war. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pakistan faces black list of countries financing terrorism," 15 Oct. 2019 That attack killed 40 Indian soldiers and caused tensions to spiral upward between India and Pakistan, bringing the two nuclear-armed nations unsettlingly close to war. Washington Post, "Pakistan faces black list of countries financing terrorism," 15 Oct. 2019 As those numbers have grown, along with a state in which human population continues to spiral upward with in-migration, many of those new arrivals are eager to get out and explore the outback. Charlie Brennan, The Denver Post, "Moose in Boulder County can still be flash point," 6 Oct. 2019 Near the base of the spiral staircase is an alluring mix of wood: Douglas fir stairs were contoured to follow the curves of an incense cedar tree trunk. Janet Eastman, oregonlive, "Cannon Beach house with a garden roof was born to be green," 22 Sep. 2019 Helping mitigate this problem flow, Gee said, is a large structure on the plaza, a TV broadcast studio wrapped in a huge, spiral staircase where people can sit and relax. Scott Ostler, SFChronicle.com, "Chase Center evaluated by Feng Shui expert," 6 Sep. 2019 The tower, which has a spiral staircase to reach its Fresnel lens and exterior walkway, was encased in metal in 1902 after the brick began to deteriorate due to exposure to the elements. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "To get to the 150-year-old Cana Island Lighthouse, you have to ride a wagon through Lake Michigan," 6 Sep. 2019 His updates included a spiral staircase and a two-story atrium. Cathy Alter, chicagotribune.com, "Julia Child’s D.C. home had lost its luster. But the owner plans to make it sparkle again.," 3 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Also questionable, at least for this reader, is his judgment about how far to go in recounting Joan’s downward spiral. Katie Hafner, Washington Post, "He critiqued a callous health-care system. Then he experienced it firsthand.," 8 Nov. 2019 Fans gasped as Wells launched another spiral into the overcast sky. Jordan Heller, cleveland, "If Collinwood closes, will kids be in danger? Parents, students fear gang violence, neighborhood decline," 3 Nov. 2019 Beads were a hot commodity during the Mississippian era, particularly those made from lightning whelk shells, which boast a spiral that was associated with the cycle of the sun. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Using Drone-Mounted Lasers, Scientists Find Ancient Bead-Making, Island-Dwelling Community in Florida," 29 Oct. 2019 But after Chaparral got the ball back, Miller hit Christakos with a pass that led to a sweet 24-yard spiral into the end zone for running back Jared Williams that gave Chaparral a 28-7 lead with 10:27 left. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Chaparral enters Open Division discussion with stunning upset of Pinnacle," 26 Oct. 2019 In June 2008, after a decade of dementia, our father passed away, and Conway’s downward spiral accelerated. Tim Requarth, Longreads, "The Final Five Percent," 22 Oct. 2019 Kids will stay busy for what feels like hours creating abstract spiral and spin art. Nicole Saporita, Good Housekeeping, "The 2019 Good Housekeeping Best Toy Awards," 18 Oct. 2019 At Puente Libre, the waiting list was written in ink in a blue spiral notebook, managed by the next migrants slated to cross. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Mexican asylum-seekers grow frustrated, fearful waiting in border towns from Tijuana to Ciudad Juárez," 1 Oct. 2019 Then, as is the case in many of these authors’ fantasy scenarios, things spiral into race war. Ian Allen, The New Republic, "The Far Right’s Apocalyptic Literary Canon," 1 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Browns are spiraling, sitting on four losses in a row. Dan Labbe, cleveland, "Browns’ lack of direction evident as season drifts away," 4 Nov. 2019 Yet, Ferguson’s second big league season was already spiraling out of control. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, "Caleb Ferguson’s resurgence underlines Dave Roberts’ faith in Dodgers’ bullpen," 9 Sep. 2019 Symptoms often begin with breathing problems, fatigue and chest pain, spiraling into gastrointestinal issues, and the possible need for mechanical ventilation. Fox News, "California lawmakers retreat on hookah ban citing 'Middle East cultural tradition'," 8 Sep. 2019 Since launching, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft has spent the last six weeks spiraling toward lunar orbit, reaching it, and releasing a lander that will attempt to reach the surface. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "India lost communication with its lander just above the surface [Updated]," 6 Sep. 2019 From that brief intersection, the story spirals outward, following the trajectories of each woman’s life through the decades. Barbara Vandenburgh, USA TODAY, "5 books not to miss: 'The Golden Hour,' 'The Chain,' 'Supper Club'," 6 July 2019 Bonnie’s own spiraling guilt over Perry’s death at the end of season one has left her increasingly listless and disconnected from her friends and family. Aja Romano, Vox, "Big Little Lies season 2, episode 2: “Tell-Tale Hearts” asks if families can survive their own secrets," 17 June 2019 So when a weekend last October spiraled out of control and led to a fateful decision that ended Jake’s life, the world crumbled beneath the Palets. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Painful lesson of late Jake Palet: Helping, hurting can go hand-in-hand," 16 Sep. 2019 A few minutes before his start at Globe Life Park, Fiers revealed his new spiraling facial hair, a beard/goatee that coiled around the side of his face. Shayna Rubin, The Mercury News, "Despite Mike Fiers’ scare on the mound, Athletics power out a win over Rangers," 14 Sep. 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.

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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

13 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for spiral

The first known use of spiral was in 1551

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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

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