Definition of screw in English:

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Pronunciation: /skro͞o/


Image of screw
1A short, slender, sharp-pointed metal pin with a raised helical thread running around it and a slotted head, used to join things together by being rotated so that it pierces wood or other material and is held tightly in place.
Example sentences
  • The logs, the wood flooring, the cabinets, all of the materials down to the nails and screws which hold it together, were donated or purchased with donated funds.
  • Some fractures require surgery, and the use of metal screws, wires, pins or plates to hold the broken pieces of bone together.
  • Builders will appreciate the fact that plastic lumber can hold nails and screws better than wood.
bolt, fastener;
nail, pin, tack, spike, rivet, brad
1.1A cylinder with a helical ridge or thread running around the outside (a male screw) that can be turned to seal an opening, apply pressure, adjust position, etc., especially one fitting into a corresponding internally grooved or threaded piece (a female screw).
Example sentences
  • It is secured with special spring-loaded screws for uniform hold-down pressure.
  • The inner diameters of the seals were adapted to the diameters of the basal parts of root systems and adjusted by screws.
  • Adjust the syrup screw on the fountain head to make the drink stronger to suit your taste.
1.2 (the screws) historical An instrument of torture having the action of a screw.
1.3 (also screw propeller) A ship’s or aircraft’s propeller (considered as acting like a screw in moving through water or air).
Example sentences
  • But steamships were improving as the screw propeller replaced the paddle wheel and iron replaced wood.
  • The subsequent development of the screw propeller, concealed beneath the surface of the water, yielded greater maneuverability as well as greater protection.
  • In 1845, the British Admiralty sponsored a demonstration to determine which was superior, the paddle wheel or screw propeller; the latter clearly won.
propeller, rotor
2An act of turning a screw or other object having a thread.
turn, twist, wrench
2.1British Billiards another term for draw.
2.2British A small twisted-up piece of paper, used as a container for a substance such as salt or tobacco.
Example sentences
  • Two labourers, flushed with beer and temporarily lordly, share a screw of tobacco in their clay pipes.
3 informal A prisoner’s derogatory term for a prison guard or warden.
Example sentences
  • One day the screws opened the solitary confinement cell and a brown paper bag was thrust inside.
  • Marijuana was sort of a sedative sort of drug as far as the screws and prison authorities were concerned.
  • The abiding impression left by the book is the way the prison system reduces prisoners and screws to animals.
4 [in singular] vulgar slang An act of sexual intercourse.
4.1 [with adjective] A sexual partner of a specified ability.
5 [in singular] British informal, dated An amount of salary or wages: he’s offered me the job with a jolly good screw
6British archaic, informal A mean or miserly person.
7British informal A worn-out horse.


1 [with object] Fasten or tighten with a screw or screws: screw the hinge to your new door
More example sentences
  • Rather than being screwed on they were riveted.
  • I undress and hang my orange attire upon a steel hanger that is securely screwed into the wall.
  • The control panel earth wire will need to be securely screwed to the chassis of the vehicle.
fasten, secure, fix, attach
1.1Rotate (something) so as to fit it into or on to a surface or object by means of a spiral thread: Philip screwed the top on the flask
More example sentences
  • Put Teflon tape in a clockwise direction as you are looking at the threads and screw it in.
  • Are you upset that he occasionally forgets to screw the top back on the toothpaste tube?
  • Joe screwed the top back on the canteen, and squeezed, on his back, under the wagon bed.
tighten, turn, twist, wind
1.2 [no object] (Of an object) be attached or removed by being rotated in this way: a connector that screws on to the gas cylinder
More example sentences
  • The resulting rack is suspended with a rope through a couple of pulleys, which screw into joists in the ceiling.
  • The shower head screws onto the shower arm stub out.
  • The nozzle closure screws over the base of the nozzle plate.
1.3 (screw something around) Turn one’s head or body around sharply: he screwed his head around to try and find the enemy
2 [with object] (usually be screwed) informal Cheat or swindle (someone), especially by charging them too much for something: if you do what they tell you, you’re screwed we ended up getting more money than what they were trying to screw us for
More example sentences
  • They just screw you for an extra £8 per month because they can!
  • Until then, though, I will only screw you out of several million dollars per person per year.
  • He spouted some nostrum about how people who ‘steal’ movies were screwing him, not the studios.
cheat, trick, deceive, swindle, con, scam, dupe, fool
informal rip off, hose, gyp, bamboozle, stiff
2.1 (screw something out of) Extort or force something, especially money, from (someone) by putting them under strong pressure: your grandmother screwed cash out of him for ten years
More example sentences
  • ‘The companies are taking advantage of the situation to screw some money out of the government,’ he admitted last week.
  • Together these poster boys for corporate greed put billions of dollars in their own pockets and those of their top execs, while screwing millions out of their employees and investors.
  • I suspect they may have the idea that they have more chance of screwing concessions out of us.
extort, force, extract, wrest, wring, squeeze
informal bleed
3 [with object] vulgar slang Have sexual intercourse with.
3.1 [no object] (Of a couple) have sexual intercourse.
3.2 [in imperative] informal Used to express anger or contempt: Screw him!
More example sentences
  • To all those people who've disparaged my Diet Coke habit over the years: screw off!
  • She had made up her mind, screw what anyone else thought, she was going there and she was going to find out what her destiny was.
  • Telling your supervisor to go screw and then expecting him to fix your mess also sucks.
4 [with object] British another term for draw (sense 8 of the verb).



have one's head screwed on (the right way)

informal Have common sense.
Example sentences
  • It does suit some people but you must have your head screwed on and be fully aware of both the risks and rewards.
  • Thankfully, the co-organiser seems to have his head screwed on, and is just getting on with it.
  • Brian has his head screwed on as he wants to be a soccer manager when he grows up.

have a screw loose

informal Be slightly eccentric or mentally disturbed.
Example sentences
  • Some of my people have speculated about such things for a long time, but now it is official: it has been medically, clinically diagnosed that I have a screw loose.
  • Who could not think he has a screw loose after going on about seeing the devil on the stage?
  • People often say that it's harder to get out of the team that into it, but whoever believes that has a screw loose.

put the screws on

informal Exert strong psychological pressure on (someone) so as to intimidate them into doing something.
Example sentences
  • He laughed and added, ‘You put the screws on me and I'm gonna screw right out from under you ever time, that's what I'm gonna do.’
  • The Duke engineering department had been putting the screws on him for a major contribution.
  • The Authority's attempts to put the screws on farmers may have backfired despite having laid some alarming facts on the table during the past week.
pressure, put pressure on, coerce, browbeat, use strong-arm tactics on, strong-arm;
hold a gun to someone's head
informal turn the heat on, lean on, bulldoze

a turn of the screw

informal An additional degree of pressure or hardship added to a situation that is already extremely difficult to bear.
Example sentences
  • Forced to return to her pitiably poor parents, she is finally forced into prostitution and each new event in her despairing life is a turn of the screw.
  • His forced conversion, Antonio's final turn of the screw, makes a hilarious ending, Shylock's soul is saved.
  • The answer is likely to depend on the political turn of the screw.

turn (or tighten) the screw (or screws)

informal Exert strong pressure on someone.
Example sentences
  • Governments could have chosen to ease the pressure, but successive Labor and Liberal governments instead turned the screws.
  • Kiltegan were still in there, if only with an outside chance as the second half got underway but Castletown lost no time in turning the screws.
  • With affluent urbanites pushing prices up, and second-homeowners turning the screw, how can young people ever afford houses of their own?

Phrasal verbs


screw around

1 vulgar slang Have many different sexual partners.
2 informal Fool around.
Example sentences
  • I should just stop screwing around with the template, huh?
  • The rest of the weekend was spent screwing around with my computer.
  • I was looking forward to a nice relaxing evening of screwing around with some new software, but it was not to be.

screw someone over

informal Treat someone unfairly; cheat or swindle someone.
Example sentences
  • In studio offices, I'm certain there's always been a conspiracy to screw me over in at least three out of five categories.
  • The development of new technologies always screws somebody over in the end.
  • Now that I need the system, it's screwing me over.

screw up

informal, chiefly North American Completely mismanage or mishandle a situation: I’m sorry, Susan, I screwed up
More example sentences
  • In any other situation, if an employee screws up, they get fired.
  • For most of my life, I've been in situations where people expect me to screw up.
  • What I love is when the accountant screws up on a simple piece of multiplication.

screw someone up

informal Cause someone to be emotionally or mentally disturbed: this job can really screw you up
More example sentences
  • ‘Our first job is to not screw him up,’ McLaughlin said with a laugh.
  • Nobody has a perfect life, and, just think, if you are screwed up in a sufficiently imaginative way, your children can always use it as creative ballast.
  • The rush of emotions and the intensity of being whooshed back to the time in my life when we were together screwed me up for weeks.

screw something up

1Tense the muscles of one’s face or around one’s eyes, typically so as to register an emotion or because of bright light.
Example sentences
  • She looks down, screws up her face and peers at me.
  • Margaret listens quietly to our opinions, then screws up her face, deep in thought.
  • Squint your eyes, screw up your face and study the glossy frames and you'll find them fascinating.
wrinkle (up), pucker, crumple, crease, furrow, contort, distort, twist, purse
2 informal Cause something to fail or go wrong: why are you trying to screw up your life?
More example sentences
  • Have I done something wrong, did I screw something up?
  • If you do the steps wrong, you screw it up.
  • If he thinks I'm doing something wrong or if I break something or screw something up he gives me extra cleaning duties to do at closing time.
wreck, ruin, destroy, wreak havoc on, damage, spoil, mar;
dash, shatter, scotch, make a mess of, mess up
informal louse up, foul up, put the kibosh on, scupper, scuttle, do for, nix
3Summon up one’s courage: now Stephen had to screw up his courage and confess
More example sentences
  • The scene in which the host and hostess of the tavern screw their courage up before murdering Thomas Cole has been seen as an analogue to Macbeth.
  • I screwed up my courage to ask him what was uppermost in my mind.
  • I've been trying to screw up the courage to call you ever since.





Example sentences
  • So the people that sell the knock-offs are screwing the screwers!
  • Record an expert's macro and even the novice screwer will see a dramatic improvement, so they claim.


Late Middle English (as a noun): from Old French escroue 'female screw, nut', from Latin scrofa, literally 'sow', later 'screw'. The early sense of the verb was 'contort (the features), twist around' (late 16th century).

  • Pigs have curly tails like corkscrews, and the ultimate source of screw is Latin scrofa ‘a sow’, source also of scrofula (Late Middle English), a disease people thought breeding sows were particularly susceptible to. Scrofula was also called the King's Evil, because kings were traditionally thought to be able to cure it. Scrofa changed its meaning to ‘screw’ in Latin, and then altered its form as it passed through French and arrived in English in the late medieval period. The slang sense ‘to have sex’, dating from the early 18th century, is probably the source of screw up meaning ‘to mess up’, which started off in the Second World War. It was a US euphemism for f— up.

Words that rhyme with screw

accrue, adieu, ado, anew, Anjou, aperçu, askew, ballyhoo, bamboo, bedew, bestrew, billet-doux, blew, blue, boo, boohoo, brew, buckaroo, canoe, chew, clew, clou, clue, cock-a-doodle-doo, cockatoo, construe, coo, Corfu, coup, crew, Crewe, cru, cue, déjà vu, derring-do, dew, didgeridoo, do, drew, due, endue, ensue, eschew, feu, few, flew, flu, flue, foreknew, glue, gnu, goo, grew, halloo, hereto, hew, Hindu, hitherto, how-do-you-do, hue, Hugh, hullabaloo, imbrue, imbue, jackaroo, Jew, kangaroo, Karroo, Kathmandu, kazoo, Kiangsu, knew, Kru, K2, kung fu, Lahu, Lanzhou, Lao-tzu, lasso, lieu, loo, Lou, Manchu, mangetout, mew, misconstrue, miscue, moo, moue, mu, nardoo, new, non-U, nu, ooh, outdo, outflew, outgrew, peekaboo, Peru, pew, plew, Poitou, pooh, pooh-pooh, potoroo, pursue, queue, revue, roo, roux, rue, Selous, set-to, shampoo, shih-tzu, shoe, shoo, shrew, Sioux, skean dhu, skew, skidoo, slew, smew, snafu, sou, spew, sprue, stew, strew, subdue, sue, switcheroo, taboo, tattoo, thereto, thew, threw, thro, through, thru, tickety-boo, Timbuktu, tiramisu, to, to-do, too, toodle-oo, true, true-blue, tu-whit tu-whoo, two, vendue, view, vindaloo, virtu, wahoo, wallaroo, Waterloo, well-to-do, whereto, whew, who, withdrew, woo, Wu, yew, you, zoo

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: screw

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