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

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 The spiral staircase or the roof terrace’s sliding doors lend themselves to an organic, almost sensual flow. Vogue, "With a New Dance Series, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye Becomes an Unlikely Stage," 23 Aug. 2019 The library’s two other floors, which are connected by a spiral staircase embossed with a selection of Finnish words, are devoted to nonliterary and extra-literary pursuits. Gordon F. Sander, The Christian Science Monitor, "Welcome to Oodi: Helsinki’s new ‘living room’," 24 Jan. 2019 The Guardian’s Davis reports that the youngest stars are closer to the galactic center while the older ones are farther out in the spiral arms. Smithsonian, "New 3D Map Shows Milky Way’s Big Twist," 3 Aug. 2019 This indicates that Cepheids located there must have formed around the same time in one of the spiral arms. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "New map of the Milky Way provides more evidence that it's warped and twisted," 2 Aug. 2019 Aside from the spiral staircase, big yellow water tanks are the only other things inside. Mckenna Oxenden, baltimoresun.com, "You asked: What’s at the top of that weird spire in Baltimore’s skyline? We took a reader up to find out.," 25 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

More than two years after voters cast their ballots, British Parliament is still struggling to find a way to depart from the E.U. without setting the country down an economic spiral. Doha Madani, NBC News, "Twitter mocks Boris Johnson after he compares himself to the Hulk," 15 Sep. 2019 Spoon sour cream into a resealable bag. Snip a corner from the bag and squeeze a spiral on top of the stew. Drag a toothpick through sour cream to create a spiderweb. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "Ghoulash Stew," 13 Sep. 2019 The nonprofit lost a bid for a city contract, beginning a downward financial spiral. New York Times, "A Fiji Junket, a Padlocked Office and a Pioneering Nonprofit’s Collapse," 10 Sep. 2019 Dust and gas are compressed into these spirals, making them visible and sometimes creating remarkable formations. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Man, These Great Elephant's Trunks Are a Galactic Wonder," 5 Sep. 2019 This pattern, called Fermat’s spiral, occurs commonly in the arrangement of leaves on stems and florets in flowers. Shweta Narayan, Smithsonian, "How Engineers of New Energy Technology Are Taking Cues From Nature," 31 Aug. 2019 Dynamic quarterback Thomas Fishburne darted about and flung spirals across the field. Don Norcross, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Steele Canyon manages to stop Madison to post victory," 30 Aug. 2019 However, the broken lines twist up to form a spiral that trails out into the Solar System. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Sun’s solar wind recreated in lab with aid of Big Red Ball," 23 Aug. 2019 Her program highlights included a sit spin and a backward catch foot spiral. baltimoresun.com, "Harford mother-daughter skaters medal at State Games of America," 23 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Finally, all aspects of my life spiraled out of control. Joel Lewin, Quartz, "There’s no such thing as a “functioning alcoholic”," 5 Sep. 2019 Soon a photo-realistic version of her in her famed garbage-bag suit spiraled toward the rafters. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The VMAs Were the End of Reality," 27 Aug. 2019 Conversation spiralled, with users making arguments about Cartesian metaphysics and quoting Socrates. Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, "The Lonely Work of Moderating Hacker News," 8 Aug. 2019 Noticeably Bonnie doesn't spiral into a confession fantasy. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "The Big Little Lies Finale Is Coming — Which Of The Monterey Five Will Spill The Lie?," 15 July 2019 Here on Earth, many species are spiraling toward extinction as humans jumble the global climate. Daniel Ackerman, Anchorage Daily News, "Ancient life awakens amid thawing ice caps and permafrost," 8 July 2019 But given the high-pitched rhetoric and ill will on both sides, the crisis could spiral downward quickly. Melissa Etehad, latimes.com, "Iran poised to press ahead with uranium enrichment despite Trump warning," 3 July 2019 If the markets sniff equivocation or muddle from the ECB president, the financial system could rapidly spiral out of control, as panicky investors dump the bonds of weaker banks and countries. The Economist, "Why Erkki Liikanen should be the ECB’s next boss," 15 June 2019 Once the fluorometer detected the dye, the AUV spiraled up to the surface in an attempt to maintain the position of the source. Stav Dimitropoulos, Popular Mechanics, "Meet the Machines That Could Unlock the Ocean's Deepest Secrets," 11 June 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

18 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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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