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90s Slang You Should Know


[krangk-uhp] /ˈkræŋkˌʌp/
an act or instance of cranking up.
Origin of crank-up
First recorded in 1905-10; noun use of verb phrase crank up


[krangk] /kræŋk/
Machinery. any of several types of arms or levers for imparting rotary or oscillatory motion to a rotating shaft, one end of the crank being fixed to the shaft and the other end receiving reciprocating motion from a hand, connecting rod, etc.
Informal. an ill-tempered, grouchy person.
an unbalanced person who is overzealous in the advocacy of a private cause.
an eccentric or whimsical notion.
a strikingly clever turn of speech or play on words.
Archaic. a bend; turn.
Slang. the nasal decongestant propylhexedrine, used illicitly for its euphoric effects.
Automotive Slang. a crankshaft.
verb (used with object)
to bend into or make in the shape of a crank.
to furnish with a crank.
Machinery. to rotate (a shaft) by means of a crank.
to start (an internal-combustion engine) by turning the crankshaft manually or by means of a small motor.
to start the engine of (a motor vehicle) by turning the crankshaft manually.
verb (used without object)
to turn a crank, as in starting an automobile engine.
Obsolete. to turn and twist; zigzag.
unstable; shaky; unsteady.
of, relating to, or by an unbalanced or overzealous person:
a crank phone call; crank mail.
British Dialect. cranky1 (def 5).
Verb phrases
crank down, to cause to diminish or terminate:
the president's efforts to crank down inflation.
crank in/into, to incorporate as an integral part:
Overhead is cranked into the retail cost.
crank out, to make or produce in a mass-production, effortless, or mechanical way:
She's able to crank out one best-selling novel after another.
crank up, Informal.
  1. to get started or ready:
    The theater season is cranking up with four benefit performances.
  2. to stimulate, activate, or produce:
    to crank up enthusiasm for a new product.
  3. to increase one's efforts, output, etc.:
    Industry began to crank up after the new tax incentives became law.
before 1000; Middle English cranke, Old English cranc-, in crancstǣf crank (see staff1)
Related forms
crankless, adjective
noncranking, adjective
uncranked, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for crank up
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I had strength enough left to get out and crank up, then, but none to spare.

    The Car That Went Abroad Albert Bigelow Paine
  • He's waiting outside by the car ready to crank up when I give the word.

    Jason Justus Miles Forman
  • Sit down, and Mr. Halliday will crank up—or whatever you call it.

    Skyrider B. M. Bower
  • When she had scoured her plate and licked her spoon with a child-like charm her father began to crank up his throat for a tirade.

    In a Little Town Rupert Hughes
  • Just then Henry indulged in his little habit of stopping altogether, and Zebedee had to get out and crank up.

  • Ill drift down the river a bit before I crank up, spoke Tom.

    Tom Fairfield in Camp Allen Chapman
  • The two scoundrels got into the car, Whipple pausing first to crank up the engine.

    Motor Matt's Daring Rescue Stanley R. Matthews
British Dictionary definitions for crank up

crank up

verb (transitive) (slang)
to increase (loudness, output, etc): he cranked up his pace
to set in motion or invigorate: news editors have to crank up tired reporters
(intransitive, adverb) to inject a narcotic drug


a device for communicating motion or for converting reciprocating motion into rotary motion or vice versa. It consists of an arm projecting from a shaft, often with a second member attached to it parallel to the shaft
Also called crank handle, starting handle. a handle incorporating a crank, used to start an engine or motor
  1. an eccentric or odd person, esp someone who stubbornly maintains unusual views
  2. (US & Canadian) a bad-tempered person
(transitive) to rotate (a shaft) by means of a crank
(transitive) to start (an engine, motor, etc) by means of a crank handle
(transitive) to bend, twist, or make into the shape of a crank
(intransitive) (obsolete) to twist or wind
See also crank up
Word Origin
Old English cranc; related to Middle Low German krunke wrinkle, Dutch krinkelcrinkle


(of a sailing vessel) easily keeled over by the wind; tender
Word Origin
C17: of uncertain origin; perhaps related to crank1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for crank up



Old English *cranc, implied in crancstæf "a weaver's instrument," crencestre "female weaver, spinster," from Proto-Germanic base *krank-, and related to crincan "to bend, yield" (see crinkle, cringe). English retains the literal sense of the ancient root, while German and Dutch krank "sick," formerly "weak, small," is a figurative use.

The sense of "an eccentric person," especially one who is irrationally fixated, is first recorded 1833, said to be from the crank of a barrel organ, which makes it play the same tune over and over; but more likely a back-formation from cranky (q.v.). Meaning "methamphetamine" attested by 1989.


1590s, "to zig-zag," from crank (n.). Meaning "to turn a crank" is first attested 1908, with reference to automobile engines. Related: Cranked; cranking.



1590s, "to zig-zag," from crank (n.). Meaning "to turn a crank" is first attested 1908, with reference to automobile engines. Related: Cranked; cranking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for crank up



  1. Bogus; false: crank letters/ crank phone calls
  2. Pertaining to methamphetamine: It's connected to a crank factory, and the case goes to New Jersey, so the FBI is all over it


  1. An eccentric person, esp one who is irrationally fixated; nut, freak: That crank wants a yogurt shampoo/ All kinds of cranks took credit for the murder (1881+)
  2. A crabby person
  3. Methamphetamine, a stimulant; speed: Ain't no calories in crank (1960s+ Narcotics)

[perhaps fr the crank of a barrel organ, by which one can play the same tune over and over again; applied by Donn Piatt to the publisher Horace Greeley]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with crank up

crank up

Get started, as in The theater season is cranking up with four benefit performances. This expression transfers the literal sense of crank, “operate a motor by turning a crank,” to starting any activity. [ ; 1930s ]
Stimulate or intensify one's efforts. For example, We've got to crank up enthusiasm for this new product, or Close to the election the campaign really cranked up. [ ; mid-1900s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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