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  1. an act or instance of swaying abruptly.
  2. a sudden tip or roll to one side, as of a ship or a staggering person.
  3. an awkward, swaying or staggering motion or gait.
verb (used without object)
  1. (of a ship) to roll or pitch suddenly.
  2. to make a lurch; move with lurches; stagger: The wounded man lurched across the room.

Origin of lurch1

First recorded in 1760–70; origin uncertain
Related formslurch·ing·ly, adverb


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5. lunge, reel, totter.


  1. a situation at the close of various games in which the loser scores nothing or is far behind the opponent.
  1. leave in the lurch, to leave in an uncomfortable or desperate situation; desert in time of trouble: Our best salesperson left us in the lurch at the peak of the busy season.

Origin of lurch2

1525–35; < Middle French lourche a game, noun use of lourche (adj.) discomfited < Germanic; compare Middle High German lurz left (hand), Old English belyrtan to deceive


verb (used with object)
  1. Archaic. to do out of; defraud; cheat.
  2. Obsolete. to acquire through underhanded means; steal; filch.
verb (used without object)
  1. British Dialect. to lurk near a place; prowl.
  1. Archaic. the act of lurking or state of watchfulness.

Origin of lurch3

1375–1425; late Middle English lorchen, apparently variant of lurken to lurk
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lurch

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • With every lurch of her feet, Andrew expected to feel her crumble beneath him.

  • I can't run the chance of the paper being left in the lurch.

  • My pride was touched, and I agreed to go, leaving my fisherman in the lurch.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Government, I suppose, will do what is right, and not leave me in the lurch.

  • What sort of a God was it who was gracious only to the young, and left the old in the lurch?

    Casanova's Homecoming

    Arthur Schnitzler

British Dictionary definitions for lurch


verb (intr)
  1. to lean or pitch suddenly to one side
  2. to stagger or sway
  1. the act or an instance of lurching
Derived Formslurching, adjective

Word Origin

C19: origin unknown


  1. leave someone in the lurch to desert someone in trouble
  2. cribbage the state of a losing player with less than 30 points at the end of a game (esp in the phrase in the lurch)

Word Origin

C16: from French lourche a game similar to backgammon, apparently from lourche (adj) deceived, probably of Germanic origin


  1. (intr) archaic, or dialect to prowl or steal about suspiciously

Word Origin

C15: perhaps a variant of lurk
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

Word Origin and History for lurch


"sudden pitch to one side," 1784, from earlier lee-larches (1765), a nautical term for "the sudden roll which a ship makes to lee-ward in a high sea, when a large wave strikes her, and bears her weather-side violently up, which depresses the other in proportion" ["Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences," London 1765]; perhaps from French lacher "to let go," from Latin laxus (see lax).

When a Ship is brought by the Lee, it is commonly occaſsioned by a large Sea, and by the Neglect of the Helm's-man. When the Wind is two or three Points on the Quarter, the Ship taking a Lurch, brings the Wind on the other Side, and lays the Sails all dead to the Maſt; as the Yards are braced up, ſhe then having no Way, and the Helm being of no Service, I would therefore brace about the Head ſails ſharp the other Way .... [John Hamilton Moore, Practical Navigator, 8th ed., 1784]


"predicament," 1580s, from Middle English lurch (v.) "to beat in a game of skill (often by a great many points)," mid-14c., probably literally "to make a complete victory in lorche," a game akin to backgammon, from Old French lourche. The game name is perhaps related to Middle English lurken, lorken "to lie hidden, lie in ambush," or it may be adopted into French from Middle High German lurz "left," also "wrong."


1821, from lurch (n.1). Related: Lurched; lurching.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with lurch


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.