Definition of cringe in English:

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Pronunciation: /krinj/

verb (cringes, cringing, cringed)

[no object]
1Bend one’s head and body in fear or in a servile manner: he cringed away from the blow (as adjective cringing) we are surrounded by cringing yes-men and sycophants
More example sentences
  • The boy cringed away but remained defiant, his anger driving the fear out of him.
  • He cringed away from Arun, eyes wide, then blinked and appeared to recognize the trapper.
  • When I did not, his hands tightened around my mouth and arm until I cringed away in pain.
cower, shrink, recoil, shy away, flinch, blench, draw back;
shake, tremble, quiver, quail, quake
1.1Experience an inward shiver of embarrassment or disgust: I cringed at the fellow’s stupidity
More example sentences
  • I could hear Beth snigger in the background and cringed at how embarrassing this was.
  • The session then continued without the interpreter, although inwardly I cringed at how stupid I must have looked.
  • Sarah inwardly cringed at the thought of how many people would approach them.
wince, shudder, squirm, feel embarrassed, feel mortified


An act of cringing.
Example sentences
  • The chuckle turned into a cringe as I swung a little, due to the movement caused by my laughter.
  • Genevan felt a strange cringe in his stomach at the sight of her.
  • Pierre gave a small cringe as Marge turned from fixing the table with mild surprise.



Example sentences
  • Runner-up in the list of Christmas cringers was There's No-one Quite Like Grandma by St Winifred's School Choir.
  • The carpers and cringers invariably compare Holyrood with Westminster.
  • Watching him throw an embarrassingly long fit about the creative direction of the movie and calling a female producer a ‘smart girl ‘is a cringer.’


Middle English crenge, crenche, related to Old English cringan, crincan 'bend, yield, fall in battle', of Germanic origin and related to Dutch krengen 'heel over' and German krank 'sick', also to crank1.

  • crank from Old English:

    The mechanical crank is found in Old English cranc recorded in crancstæf, a weaver's implement. The primary notion is ‘something bent together’ and it is related to crincan ‘to bend’, probably also the source of cringe (Middle English). Crank (early 17th century) and cranky (late 18th century) meaning an eccentric or bad-tempered person are from a dialect word originally meaning ‘weak, in poor health’.

Words that rhyme with cringe

binge, fringe, hinge, impinge, singe, springe, swinge, syringe, tinge, twinge, whinge

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cringe

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