Definition of crook in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /krʊk/


1The hooked staff of a shepherd: seizing his crook from behind the door, he set off to call his dogs
More example sentences
  • Every year more and more shepherds hang up their crooks.
  • Reaper stood calmly with the base of his scythe planted on the ground, looking like a shepherd with his crook.
  • The shepherd's crook is not for beating the sheep, but for catching hold of them if they go into danger where the shepherd's arm can't reach them.
1.1A bishop’s crozier.
Example sentences
  • Dressed in full regalia with mitre and crook, Bishop David then led a prayer of thanks for the new school and everyone who worked and studied in it.
  • Instead the Mitchell brothers are generally busy making crooks for bishops and hikers.
  • Now I find myself completely unmoved by badges of hierarchy, of mitres and crooks and crowns.
1.2A bend in something, especially at the elbow in a person’s arm: her head was cradled in the crook of Luke’s left arm
More example sentences
  • I tapped a vein in the crook of my elbow to demonstrate.
  • That's not as easy a task as it was when I was a young man, but there one was, neatly in the crook of my elbow.
  • I started getting patches of it in the crook of my elbows, on my neck and around my eyes.
bend, curve, curvature, kink, bow, elbow, angle, fork, intersection
technical flexure
1.3A piece of extra tubing which can be fitted to a brass instrument to lower the pitch by a set interval.
Example sentences
  • Early in the 18th century, horns began to be made on which separate coils of tubing of different lengths, called crooks, could be inserted at the mouthpipe to give the horn a different key.
  • Further notes became available when added lengths of tube, known as crooks or shanks, could be fitted.
2 informal A person who is dishonest or a criminal: the man’s a crook, he’s not to be trusted
More example sentences
  • Bernie's team work hard to catch thieves, whether car crooks or shoplifters.
  • The majority of prisoners are crooks, thugs, murderers and rapists, who took the lives of people and did irreparable damage to women and young girls.
  • The sport, if that's what it is, has seen way more than its fair share of gangsters and con men and other crooks.
criminal, lawbreaker, offender, villain, black hat, delinquent, malefactor, culprit, wrongdoer, transgressor, sinner;
young offender, juvenile delinquent;
felon, thief, robber, armed robber, burglar, housebreaker, shoplifter, mugger, fraudster, confidence trickster, swindler, racketeer, gunman, gangster, outlaw, bandit, terrorist, rapist;
in Japan yakuza
informal con, jailbird, (old) lag, lifer, baddy, shark, conman, con artist, hustler
North American informal yardbird, yegg
Australian informal crim
South African informal lighty
West Indian informal tief
British rhyming slang tea leaf
informal, dated cracksman
Law  malfeasant, misfeasor, infractor
archaic miscreant, trespasser, trusty, transport
rare peculator, defalcator


[with object]
Bend (something, especially a finger as a signal): he crooked a finger for the waitress
More example sentences
  • ‘Don't put your filthy hands on it,’ I said crooking a finger at her.
  • ‘Come with me,’ she said calmly, crooking her finger at him, turning and walking down the corridor.
  • Caroline stopped walking and turned to her husband, crooking her finger.
cock, flex, bend, curve, curl, angle, hook, bow


Australian /NZ informal
1Bad, unpleasant, or unsatisfactory: it was pretty crook on the land in the early 1970s
More example sentences
  • So laughter is the answer to all the crook things that happen.
  • This is about units in the normal market, which are regarded by many as a crook investment at the best of times.
  • We had a bad phone call at about 1.30 in the morning and after that have had a couple of crook letters.
1.1(Of a person or a part of the body) unwell or injured: a crook knee
More example sentences
  • Michael came to Britain when his frail crook father returned and gave himself up in May, after 35 years on the run.
  • ‘I'm not a doctor but if blokes are crook they should stay home,’ he said.
  • And despite battling a weak heart and a crook knee, Donald can't see himself giving away his volunteer work anytime soon.
1.2Dishonest; illegal: some pretty crook things went on there
More example sentences
  • For the most part, this is true; nobody really needs a third party to inform them that their boss is a crook bastard.



be crook on

Australian /NZ informal Be annoyed by: you’re crook on me because I didn’t walk out with you
More example sentences
  • What fascinated me though was in Wallace's communist football Utopia he was crook on what some clubs were able to pay their assistant coaches.
  • I was crook on them, but fortunately with time you learn to give it up.
  • ‘What a relief, I'd have been crook on myself if I'd have mucked up then, ’.

go crook

Australian /NZ informal Lose one’s temper: we rolled him for his overcoat—you ought to have heard him go crook
More example sentences
  • And if that happens, you don't tend to go crook at your partner, and if you do go crook at your partner, well then you have little chance of being a good doubles players I think.
  • He invited me in just in case Bev went crook.



Example sentences
  • The Guardian summarised these difficulties rather well: ‘Missing [but not kidnapped or murdered] children, jealous spouses, petty crookery, ostrich rustling and beauty contest corruption.’
  • When we each get up to our particular bit of crookery and deviousness we don't say, ‘I'm stealing or cheating’ we say ‘I'm beating the system.’
  • Our adult children now all do their banking on the internet and are happy to take their chances with electronic crookery, but I am of the old school who likes to see the whites of a teller's eyes when making a deposit.


Middle English (in the sense 'hooked tool or weapon'): from Old Norse krókr 'hook'. A noun sense 'deceit, guile, trickery' (compare with crooked) was recorded in Middle English but was obsolete by the 17th century The Australian senses are abbreviations of crooked.

  • A crook was originally a hooked tool or weapon. The source is Old Norse krokr ‘hook’. The word used to mean ‘dishonest trick, guile’ in medieval English, and although this sense had fallen from use by the 17th century it gave rise to villains being known as crooks in late 19th-century America. In Australia and New Zealand crook has meant ‘bad, unpleasant’, ‘dishonest, unscrupulous’, and ‘ill, unwell’ since the late 1890s. These uses might come from the old British thieves' slang sense ‘stolen’.

Words that rhyme with crook

betook, book, brook, Brooke, Chinook, chook, Coke, cook, Cooke, forsook, Gluck, hook, look, mistook, nook, partook, rook, schnook, schtuck, Shilluk, shook, Tobruk, took, undercook, undertook

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: crook

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.