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



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


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

Other Words from spiral


spirally \ ˈspī-​rə-​lē How to pronounce spiral (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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Bare windows offer glimpses of a spiral staircase and marble floors inside. Lynsey Weatherspoon/redux For Cnn, CNN, 7 May 2022 As thick as a spiral ham, the cable section weighs 46 pounds. Elizabeth Royte, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Mar. 2022 To say that his downward spiral feels inevitable, even circumscribed, is to quibble less with the character than the fatalistic rules of the genre to which the movie belongs. Los Angeles Times, 16 Dec. 2021 Add a 10-pound spiral ham with a sweet glaze for $89. Gege Reed, The Courier-Journal, 6 Nov. 2021 After a global event wipes out humanity’s ability to sleep, a troubled ex-soldier fights to save her family as society and her mind spiral into chaos. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 6 June 2021 The spiral design features a walkable ramp wrapping around the building with trees and greenery planted to resemble a mountain hike. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 26 Apr. 2022 There are versions set with white diamonds, a mix of black and white diamonds or green and blue gemstones (tsavorites and Paraiba tourmalines) set in a swirling spiral pattern around the bezel. Carol Besler, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 The lobby atrium now features a spectacular Art Deco chandelier that dangles six stories through the center of a wrought-iron spiral staircase. James Stewart, Robb Report, 23 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Meanwhile, her mental spiral is overlaid with a contorted score, twisting Tchaikovsky's iconic compositions from the original ballet. Andrew Walsh, EW.com, 5 May 2022 Frightened by her rapid downward spiral, the Fords staged an intervention in April 1978. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, 15 Apr. 2022 On Monday, the stock market continued its downward spiral as the major indices each took on sharp losses. Q.ai - Make Genius Money Moves, Forbes, 13 Apr. 2022 This is a very similar situation to right before my spiral. Dory Jackson, PEOPLE.com, 15 Mar. 2022 If Tesla’s value sinks, Musk could be required to shed some of his shares to meet his loan obligations, leading to a downward spiral in his net worth. Washington Post, 26 Apr. 2022 But before long a chill seeps in, darkening the movie’s melodies and tilting a once-glorious love story into a spiral — a veritable Mael-strom — of alienation, loss and regret. Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2021 Higher wages and transportation costs put more pressure on businesses, which then raise prices in many cases and contribute to a spiral in inflation. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 11 Feb. 2022 Moreover, work requirements often add administrative barriers to obtaining benefits—and losing them could lead to a downward spiral for families. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 24 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The situation continued to spiral once sheriff’s deputies arrived, the group said. Antonio Planas, NBC News, 12 May 2022 When gripped in a bout of severe challenge, the actual or potential of damage to one’s mental and emotional fabric, pain in this context can spiral quickly past the control of the one experiencing it. Alex Wagner, SPIN, 27 Apr. 2022 But the exchange overnight showed how quickly the situation can spiral out of control, particularly as video of police interventions at the mosque flood Arab social media, causing deep offense among Muslims, who are currently observing Ramadan. New York Times, 21 Apr. 2022 His outing continued to spiral with one out in the fourth, as Kelvin Gutierrez cranked a ground-rule double to put two runners in scoring position. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, 27 Mar. 2022 But the apparent surge in canine distemper cases is unlikely to spiral into an epidemic among wildlife, Sorem said, mainly because wild animals don’t tend to congregate in large groups. Andres Picon, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 Mar. 2022 The potential for such maneuvers to result in a collision or confrontation - and for that incident to then spiral into a greater fight - grows exponentially greater amid an active war. Karoun Demirjian, Anchorage Daily News, 1 Mar. 2022 The performance continued to spiral downward for the first quarter (Q1) 2022. Shelley E. Kohan, Forbes, 26 Jan. 2022 What began as such a promising season for the Raiders is starting to spiral into another forgettable one. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, 12 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of spiral


1551, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1834, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for spiral


Medieval Latin spiralis, from Latin spira coil — more at spire

Learn More About spiral

Dictionary Entries Near spiral



spiral axis

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Statistics for spiral

Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Spiral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spiral. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for spiral


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



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


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


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 spiral (audio) \ adverb



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

More from Merriam-Webster on spiral

Nglish: Translation of spiral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spiral for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about spiral


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