Definition of crawl in English:

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Pronunciation: /krɔːl/


1 [no object] Move forward on the hands and knees or by dragging the body close to the ground: they crawled 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, go on all fours, move on hands and knees, inch, drag oneself along, pull oneself along, drag, trail, slither, slink, squirm, wriggle, writhe, scrabble, worm one's way, advance slowly/stealthily, sneak
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: I turned without stopping and crawled back to the deep end
More 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 favour: a reporter’s job can involve crawling to objectionable people
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, be obsequious towards, ingratiate oneself with, be servile towards, be sycophantic towards, kowtow to, pander to, abase oneself to, demean oneself to, bow and scrape to, prostrate oneself before, toady to, truckle to, dance attendance on, fawn on/over, curry favour with, cultivate, seek the favour of, try to win over, try to get on the good side of, make up to, play up to
informal suck up to, lick someone's boots, creep to, be all over, fall all over, rub up the right way, keep someone sweet, sweet-talk, soft-soap, butter up, twist someone's arm
North American  brown-nose
vulgar slang lick/kiss someone's arse
archaic blandish
3 (be crawling with) Be covered or crowded with (insects or people), to an extent that is objectionable: the floor was dirty and crawling with bugs
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, abound in/with, be packed with, be crowded with, be thronged with, be jammed with, be alive with, be overrun with, swarm with, be bristling with, be infested with, be thick with
informal be lousy with, be stuffed with, be jam-packed with, be chock-a-block with, be chock-full of
rare pullulate with
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: she could do the crawl and so many other strokes
More 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.


make someone's skin crawl

Cause someone to feel an unpleasant sensation resembling something moving over the skin, as a symptom of fear or disgust: a person dying in a fire—doesn’t it make your skin crawl?
More example sentences
  • They are the kind of parents who instantly make one's skin crawl.
  • No fear shone in their orange eyes, only an evil deadness that could be felt, making one's skin crawl.
  • Yet in one scene he overturns the balance of power between them with a single disturbing gesture, and the sleazy satisfaction on his face makes one's skin crawl.



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: /ˈkrɔːli/
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

Line breaks: crawl

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