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
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:
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

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

But what really caught our eye was Underwood’s two-story dressing room, complete with a vanity and full-length mirror on one floor and a decadent closet above—connected by a spiral staircase. Cator Sparks, House Beautiful, "Carrie Underwood Is Selling Her Tennessee Home," 11 Mar. 2019 Autonomous, electric vehicles could be lowered into the system on wall-less elevators the size of two cars or spiral ramps. Amanda Lee Myers, The Seattle Times, "Elon Musk’s new tunnel ‘a little rough around the edges’," 19 Dec. 2018 The little book was American-made with sturdy paper and secure spiral wire binding. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "My Favorite Little Notebook Costs $4 And Just Might Change Your Life," 22 Nov. 2018 Climb a spiral staircase to access 10 cozy rooms, all with tatami natural-fiber mats and beds hugged by fusuma sliding doors adorned with monochromatic Japanese landscapes. Michaela Trimble, Vogue, "An Insider’s Guide to the Little Tokyo of Mexico City," 23 Jan. 2019 Astrophysicists have two main ideas to explain what’s making these spiral arms. Joshua Sokol, WIRED, "These Spinning Disks of Gas and Dust Reveal How Planets Get Made," 28 May 2018 The spiral staircase, which measures over 4 meters tall—or about 13 feet—was the original structure found on the Tower in 1889. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Make This Piece Of The Eiffel Tower A Part Of Your Home For $45K," 21 Nov. 2018 About 99% of the 6 billion steps in the spiral staircase of DNA’s double helix are the same for all of us. Robert Plomin, WSJ, "Our Fortunetelling Genes," 15 Nov. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But when one person in a relationship has BPD, a simple argument can trigger an emotional downward spiral. Amanda Macmillan, Health.com, "How Borderline Personality Disorder Affects Relationships," 6 June 2019 In the early 2000s, Herndon divorced his second wife and began to spiral before finally entering rehab for the second time. Hanna Flanagan, PEOPLE.com, "Ty Herndon Releases New Version of His 1995 Breakthrough Country Hit — with New Pronouns," 4 June 2019 The only person in Westeros who saw Dany's downward spiral coming—besides Sansa, that is—was the Spider himself, Lord Varys. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "Did Varys Try to Kill Daenerys On 'Game of Thrones'?," 13 May 2019 The galaxy’s spiral disk of stars is actually made of two parts: a thinner, denser region encompassed by a thicker, more diffuse region. Ramin Skibba, WIRED, "This Galactic Collision Shaped the History of the Milky Way," 8 July 2018 Sadly, Jo's spiral continued and led to a heated fight with Alex at the end of the episode. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Grey's Anatomy' Fans Are EXPLODING Over What Happened With Jo and Alex," 19 Apr. 2019 This desire sent me on a deep, deep online shopping spiral, seeking an affordable alternative. Tara Gonzalez, Glamour, "We Found the Best Spring Dress Trend—And It's Under $150," 9 Apr. 2019 Even as the season—and potentially his Chelsea tenure—spiral away from him, Sarri is stubbornly sticking to his guns. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Chelsea May Have to Hit the Reset Button, Again," 22 Feb. 2019 The guilty verdict was the culmination of a long downward spiral for Cosby, who was accused by dozens of women of similar crimes after public interest in his rape allegations was renewed. Fox News, "FOX NEWS FIRST: New allegations against Kavanaugh throw confirmation battle into chaos; Trump to address U.N.," 24 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

By Marisa Iati | The Washington Post China issued a travel advisory on the U.S. through the end of the year amid spiraling trade tensions between the two countries. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "China warns its citizens against US travel, citing ‘frequent’ shootings and harassment," 4 June 2019 Inflation is among the most powerful forces in financial markets, but too much or too little can send the economy spiraling. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, "Low-Inflation Trap That Ensnared Japan and Europe Worries Fed," 3 June 2019 In the center is a white-oak pedestal topped by an edition of a hypnotic, spiraling Georgia O’Keeffe sculpture. Nancy Hass, ELLE Decor, "This Brian J. McCarthy-Designed Hamptons Home is Filled with the Unexpected," 13 Mar. 2019 If managed properly, a skin-care routine can be just that for someone with OCD—a healthy, beneficial habit without spiraling into compulsions. Jacqueline Kantor, SELF, "How I Balance My Skin-Care Routine and My OCD Symptoms," 22 May 2019 In Gaza, the humanitarian and security situation are poor, leading to frequent flare-ups of violence with Israel that could easily spiral into a war, as nearly happened in November. Dov Lieber, WSJ, "Israel Calls Early Elections as Netanyahu’s Coalition Collapses," 24 Dec. 2018 That aggression could then spiral out of control and cause a greater conflict. Alex Ward, Vox, "China’s military power could match America’s by 2050," 14 Nov. 2018 What started out as a picturesque relationship quickly spiraled into a terrifying sequence of lies, threats, and potential homicide. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Everything We Know About Bravo's TV Adaptation of Dirty John," 15 Oct. 2018 After advancing into the magnificent courtyard, viewers ascended a spiraling staircase illuminated by Marcel Wander’s Venezia lanterns. Max Maeckler, Vogue, "The Most Mesmerizing Design Moments of Salone del Mobile," 18 Apr. 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

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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 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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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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