Definition of curl in English:

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Pronunciation: /kəːl/


1Form or cause to form into a curved or spiral shape: [no object]: her fingers curled round the microphone a slice of ham had begun to curl up at the edges [with object]: she used to curl her hair with rags
More example sentences
  • He looks sun-tanned and well, clearly enjoying his cup of tea as he daintily curls his fingers round the handle.
  • She was deep in conversation with the girl sitting by her, bent forward, her hair curling round her face, her eyes wide.
  • You've known him for less than a week, and he's already got you curled round his little finger!
wind, twine, entwine, wrap
crimp, wave, tong;
go curly, go frizzy, frizz out, frizzle, crinkle
1.1 [no object] (curl up) Sit or lie with the knees drawn up: she curled up and went to sleep
More example sentences
  • He curls up in his seat, knees up to his shoulders, his arms hugging himself tight.
  • But I just feel like nailing my door shut and curling up in a ball in the corner of my room.
  • He would curl up into the foetal position and weep at the mention of his ex-girlfriend's name.
nestle, snuggle, cuddle;
North American  snug down
1.2Move or cause to move in a spiral or curved course: [no object, with adverbial of direction]: a wisp of smoke curling across the sky
More example sentences
  • Doc turned us on a straight line for the wagon train and they curled off their course to meet us.
  • I felt my stomach backflip as the smoke curled around me.
  • Her smoke curled toward the light over the table where a moth was bumping against the bulb.
spiral, coil, wreathe, twirl, swirl, furl;
wind, curve, bend, twist, twist and turn, loop, meander, snake, corkscrew, zigzag
1.3(With reference to one’s mouth or upper lip) raise or cause to raise slightly on one side as an expression of contempt or disapproval: [no object]: Maria saw his lip curl sardonically
More example sentences
  • He kept his voice neutral, but the left side of his upper lip curled slightly in disapproval.
  • Her upper lip curled slightly in a faint scowl as she gathered the parchment up in her hand and broke the serpent seal with her fingernail.
  • His eyes darkened, and the right side of his lips curled slightly.
2(In weight training) lift (a weight) using only the hands, wrists, and forearms: slowly curl the barbell to shoulder height
More example sentences
  • Regardless of which isolation exercise I select, the plan is to curl the weight slowly and to go for a full muscular contraction.
  • For example, if you did the barbell curl and it took you two seconds to curl the weight up and another two seconds to lower it, that's four seconds of tension per rep.
  • Grasp the handles of the machine and inhale as you flex the knees and slowly curl the weights until the pads touch the buttocks.
3 [no object] Play at the game of curling: during the severe spell in 1740, men curled on the pond
More example sentences
  • She began curling in high school and finished second at the Wisconsin state high school championships.
  • He started curling while attending college in Minnesota, but has given up on the sport since.


1Something in the shape of a spiral or coil, especially a lock of hair: her blonde hair was a mass of tangled curls a curl of blue smoke
More example sentences
  • Shower and shampoo has left my hair in an uncontrollable mass of curls and tangles.
  • My hair was in spiral curls that hung loosely around my face, forming a dark shadow around my glowing face.
  • Her hair was damp too, making her usually straight hair coil up in small curls.
ringlet, corkscrew, coil, kink, wave;
spiral, coil, wreath, twirl, swirl, furl, twist, corkscrew, curlicue, whorl, helix, gyre
1.1A curling movement: the sneering curl of his lip
More example sentences
  • Unfortunately, while we might be prepared to complain about deficiencies in our own immediate locality, when we see a mess further afield we tend to pass it by with a curl of the lip.
  • He, apparently ruthless in his ambition, gave up on mainstream politics with barely a curl of those famous lips.
  • I read over my recent entries with a curl to my lip; I'm not at my sparkling best in winter.
1.2(With reference to a person’s hair) a state or condition of being curled: your hair has a natural curl [mass noun]: large perm rods give volume and control rather than lots of curl
More example sentences
  • Finally, for you curly heads, don't towel dry your hair because it'll break up your natural curl, creating lackluster, frizzy hair.
  • Personally I hate my hair; it tends to have a natural curl to it, so I cut it to prevent it from getting out of control.
  • My blonde tresses had caused me trouble ever since I had my haircut up to my shoulders, from a previous length of my waist, and the natural curl came out.
1.3 see leaf curl.
2A weightlifting exercise involving movement of only the hands, wrists, and forearms: a dumb-bell curl
More example sentences
  • For the biceps, start out with a major massbuilding exercise like barbell curls.
  • Follow this set with hamstring and/or glute exercises such as stiff-leg deadlifts and leg curls.
  • You might also decide to try an alternate exercise like stiff-legged deadlifts or seated curls.
3 Mathematics A function giving a measure of the rotation of a vector field.


make someone's hair curl

informal Shock or horrify someone: she drives at a speed to make your hair curl
More example sentences
  • The last information he had received was from survivors, and it was horrifying, that it would make a man 's hair curl.
  • There are things going in in this world that make your hair curl.
  • Whatever your politics, it will make your hair curl.
shock, stun, horrify, appal, scandalize, make someone's blood run cold
informal make someone's hair stand on end


Late Middle English: from obsolete crulle 'curly', from Middle Dutch krul.

Words that rhyme with curl

birl, burl, churl, earl, Erle, furl, girl, herl, hurl, knurl, merle, pas seul, pearl, purl, Searle, skirl, squirl, swirl, twirl, whirl, whorl

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: curl

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