Definition of crawl in English:

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Pronunciation: /krôl/


1 [no object] (Of a person) move forward on the hands and knees or by dragging the body close to the ground: they crawled out from under the table
More example sentences
  • I leaned forward, crawling on my knees to a bottle of beer resting on the desk next to the door.
  • Rolling across the ground, she crawled forward on her belly, ignoring the taste of grime and blood in her mouth.
  • Mack and I dove on the ground and began to crawl forward.
creep, worm one's way, go on all fours, go on hands and knees, wriggle, slither, squirm, scrabble
1.1(Of an insect or small animal) move slowly along a surface: the tiny spider was crawling up Nicky’s arm
More example sentences
  • The creature slowly crawled into the clearing and snuck over to Oki's side.
  • A pale green light shrouded the scenery, above a canopy thrived and animals and birds crawled and flew through the treetops.
  • The knight rode ahead of him calm and self-contained, but Kieran felt as though insects were crawling under the surface of his skin.
1.2(Of a vehicle) move at an unusually slow pace: the traffic was crawling along
More example sentences
  • He sat down beside her and looked at the constant stream of slow-moving vehicles crawling along to the junction with the street.
  • The streets of South London were unusually dark as our bus crawled through a rainy Clapham and Brixton.
  • When I looked out of the window, there were three or four blokes going from door-to-door whilst an unmarked transit van crawled along behind them.
1.3Swim using the crawl.
Example sentences
  • The result may have been a remarkably smooth motion, like the crawl performed by an expert swimmer.
1.4 technical (Of paint or other liquid) move after application to form an uneven layer over the surface below: glazes can crawl away from a crack in the piece
2 [no object] informal Behave obsequiously or ingratiatingly in the hope of gaining someone’s favor: don’t come crawling back to me later when you realize your mistake
More example sentences
  • Bill's always crawling to management, hoping for promotion.
  • That's just what independent people who have worked hard all their lives want: to have to go crawling to the State with their begging bowl out.
  • Next thing you know, the t-shirt companies will come crawling to you, asking for you to be their ambassador!
grovel to, ingratiate oneself with, be obsequious to, kowtow to, pander to, toady to, truckle to, bow and scrape to, dance attendance on, curry favor with, make up to, fawn on/over
informal suck up to, lick someone's boots, butter up
3 (be crawling with) Be covered or crowded with insects or people, to an extent that is disgusting or objectionable: the place was crawling with soldiers
More example sentences
  • Inside it is crawling with maggot-like insects.
  • In the beginning, the area had been crawling with soldiers and bristling with guns.
  • You know the place is going to be crawling with all those people from the history department you don't like.
be full of, overflow with, teem with, be packed with, be crowded with, be alive with, be overrun with, swarm with, be bristling with, be infested with, be thick with
informal be lousy with, be jam-packed with, be chock-full of
4 [with object] Computing (Of a program) systematically visit (a number of web pages) in order to create an index of data: its automated software robots crawl websites, grabbing copies of pages to index
More example sentences
  • The 33-year-old wrote a program to crawl the Web and download menus from New York eateries.
  • Google crawls 20 billion pages a day.
  • Search engines are programs that crawl the web looking for information.


[in singular]
1An act of moving on one’s hands and knees or dragging one’s body along the ground: they began the crawl back to their own lines
More example sentences
  • Tyler and Tony began the long crawl back to their cells.
  • Blake began the upside-down crawl on the net, his hands and feet hooking themselves into holes in the net like it was instinct.
  • He slowed down as the bathroom came into sight, and walked at a circumspect crawl now.
1.1A slow rate of movement, typically that of a vehicle: he reduced his speed to a crawl
More example sentences
  • I was forced to slow down to a crawl and pay special attention to everything going on around me.
  • If every laptop user is downloading from the network at this speed, the servers will slow to a crawl.
  • He said the road did not look particularly dangerous but jams were caused when motorist slowed down to a crawl because of the icy conditions.
2A swimming stroke involving alternate overarm movements and rapid kicks of the legs.
Example sentences
  • The crawl stroke, with flutter kick, had been introduced into competitive swimming a few years earlier by another Aussie.
  • The shoulder can be put into a precarious position during the recovery and entry periods of the crawl and butterfly strokes.
  • So popular was the gala that the number of events had to be restricted to the front crawl and the backstroke because such a large number of competitors turned up.
3A strip or band running across the bottom of a computer or television screen, within which news headlines, public service announcements, and advertisements are continuously scrolled.


make someone's skin crawl

see skin.



Example sentences
  • Four minutes fly by when you resonate with the sentiments expressed; but can also be crawlingly slow had you no idea at what was being conveyed.
  • With the technology available to do otherwise, why restrict our geographical area and put up with crawlingly slow Internet connections?


Pronunciation: /ˈkrôlē/
Example sentences
  • I see the occasional spider and random crawly thing.
  • Someone gave me a set, and they immediately hatched into hundreds of awful little crawly things with big teeth and millions of incessantly moving legs.
  • The latter is filled with insects and fungi, and I doubt it will be anything short of a week before I get rid of the crawly sensation.


Middle English: of unknown origin; possibly related to Swedish kravla and Danish kravle.

Words that rhyme with crawl

all, appal (US appall), awl, Bacall, ball, bawl, befall, Bengal, brawl, call, caul, Donegal, drawl, drywall, enthral (US enthrall), fall, forestall, gall, Galle, Gaul, hall, haul, maul, miaul, miscall, Montreal, Naipaul, Nepal, orle, pall, Paul, pawl, Saul, schorl, scrawl, seawall, Senegal, shawl, small, sprawl, squall, stall, stonewall, tall, thrall, trawl, wall, waul, wherewithal, withal, yawl

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: crawl

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