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 The second story boasts a bonus room, office, a loft accessed by a spiral staircase and the master suite. Los Angeles Times, "Hot Property: Philip Rivers looks to hand one off in San Diego," 9 May 2020 Researchers have speculated that the tusk, which grows out of the animal's head in a spiral pattern, was used as an environment sensor or to hunt. Katie Hunt, CNN, "Here's how the 'unicorns of the sea' got their tusks," 18 Mar. 2020 One unique feature is the luxurious two-story master closet, which features glass-front cabinetry, a spiral staircase, quartz wet bar with beverage center and refrigerator, seating area and jewelry safe. Rebecca Hennes, Houston Chronicle, "Waterfront Sugar Land palace, opulent River Oaks mansion highlight Houston's top homes sold in March," 8 Apr. 2020 The measures are getting even tighter because the numbers of deaths from the virus and of new Covid-19 cases continues to spiral upward. Sylvia Poggioli, The New York Review of Books, "Pandemic Journal, March 23–29," 29 Mar. 2020 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Should your Ikea run spiral, folding the second and third row opens up 72 cubes of space. Tony Quiroga, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2020 Audi Q7 55 Is Quick and Quiet," 16 Mar. 2020 That’s because any other stray matter being sucked into the black hole would emit a blast of radiation during its death spiral powerful enough to kill any life on a nearby planet. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Could a habitable planet orbit a black hole?," 4 Feb. 2020 Runaway infections trigger a death spiral that ends in cardiac arrest. Michael Greshko, National Geographic, "Amphibian 'apocalypse' caused by most destructive pathogen ever," 28 Mar. 2019 The numbers of spirals in pinecones are Fibonacci numbers, as is the number of petals in each layer of certain flowers. Elizabeth Landau, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Fibonacci Sequence Is Everywhere—Even the Troubled Stock Market," 25 Mar. 2020 The main course is a baked spiral ham with brown sugar maple glaze, roasted chicken with garlic parmesan cream sauce and fettuccini carbonara with prosciutto and peas. Maria Shine Stewart, cleveland, "Envisioning a world of virtue: Sun Messages," 6 Apr. 2020 The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked the Pentagon for 100,000 body bags, a chilling request as the COVID-19 pandemic spirals. Annah Aschbrenner, USA TODAY, "OnPolitics: The waiting is the hardest part," 4 Apr. 2020 And so a default spiral in high yield bonds and leveraged loans will persist, as the have-nots will not have access to liquidity to stave off default. Fortune, "Coronavirus is igniting a devastating crisis for highly indebted companies," 4 Apr. 2020 Then Konstantin shows up and tells Villanelle that Eve is still alive, while Carolyn tells Eve that Villanelle is back, setting off another spiral into their mutual obsession. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Killing Eve S3 trailer drops; new season will debut two weeks early," 27 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Meanwhile, Treadway says her mental health is spiraling. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Coronavirus restrictions confine pregnant Eagle River woman to a hospital room for 46 days and counting," 8 May 2020 Evansville lost its final 19 games with the season spiraling downward after the firing of former Kentucky player Walter McCarty amid a Title IX investigation for alleged misconduct. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "DeAndre Williams helped Evansville beat Kentucky. Could he transfer to UK now?," 3 May 2020 For those of us so privileged that our only diagnosis is to stay home, long stretches of isolation and anxiety spirals still take a mental toll. Pia Ceres, Wired, "I Can’t Stop Escaping Into Google Photos’ Nostalgia Vortex," 3 May 2020 In other words, companies can carry unneeded workers for free, a measure aimed at stopping the spiraling unemployment numbers of 26 million and counting. Philip Elliott, Time, "Why We Still Don't Know Which Businesses Are Getting Coronavirus Relief," 30 Apr. 2020 American traders were paying people to take oil off their hands as storage space ran out, and Canadian crude spiraled downwards. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, "Covid-19 is closing Canada’s carbon-intensive oil sands for business," 29 Apr. 2020 But the virus has also exposed the stark divide between the rich and everyone else in a nation whose disparities are marked by upward spiraling joblessness and luxury cars racing through the desert air. Los Angeles Times, oregonlive, "Wealthy enclaves balance coronavirus risk with money from well-to-do who want to escape there," 28 Apr. 2020 Meanwhile, policy proposals to curb plastic pollution in California could face fierce opposition in Sacramento as the economy spirals downward. Dustin Gardiner, SFChronicle.com, "Recycling takes a hit in coronavirus California as plastic waste piles up," 20 Apr. 2020 Almost a century before the recent, wildly popular Hilma af Klint retrospective at New York's Guggenheim, the Swedish artist imagined a spiraling white temple, not unlike that Manhattan landmark, as the home for her paintings. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Beyond the Visible — Hilma af Klint': Film Review," 17 Apr. 2020

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

14 May 2020

Cite this Entry

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

Obscure Shapes

  • a pile of three dimensional shapes in green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
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!