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[skroo] /skru/
a metal fastener having a tapered shank with a helical thread, and topped with a slotted head, driven into wood or the like by rotating, especially by means of a screwdriver.
a threaded cylindrical pin or rod with a head at one end, engaging a threaded hole and used either as a fastener or as a simple machine for applying power, as in a clamp, jack, etc.
Compare bolt1 (def 3).
British. a tapped or threaded hole.
something having a spiral form.
Usually, screws. physical or mental coercion:
The terrified debtor soon felt the gangster's screws.
a single turn of a screw.
a twist, turn, or twisting movement.
Chiefly British.
  1. a little salt, sugar, tobacco, etc., carried in a twist of paper.
  2. Slang. a mean, old, or worn-out horse; a horse from which one can obtain no further service.
  3. Slang. a friend or employer from whom one can obtain no more money.
  4. Slang. a miser.
British Informal. salary; wages.
Slang. a prison guard.
Slang: Vulgar.
  1. an act of coitus.
  2. a person viewed as a sexual partner.
verb (used with object)
to fasten, tighten, force, press, stretch tight, etc., by or as if by means of a screw or device operated by a screw or helical threads.
to operate or adjust by a screw, as a press.
to attach with a screw or screws:
to screw a bracket to a wall.
to insert, fasten, undo, or work (a screw, bolt, nut, bottle top with a helical thread, etc.) by turning.
to contort as by twisting; distort (often followed by up):
Dad screwed his face into a grimace of disgust.
to cause to become sufficiently strong or intense (usually followed by up):
I screwed up my courage to ask for a raise.
to coerce or threaten.
to extract or extort.
to force (a seller) to lower a price (often followed by down).
Slang. to cheat or take advantage of (someone).
Slang: Vulgar. to have coitus with.
verb (used without object)
to turn as or like a screw.
to be adapted for being connected, taken apart, opened, or closed by means of a screw or screws or parts with helical threads (usually followed by on, together, or off):
This top screws on easily.
to turn or move with a twisting or rotating motion.
to practice extortion.
Slang: Vulgar. to have coitus.
Verb phrases
screw around, Slang.
  1. to waste time in foolish or frivolous activity:
    If you'd stop screwing around we could get this job done.
  2. Vulgar. to engage in promiscuous sex.
screw off, Slang.
  1. to do nothing; loaf.
  2. to leave; go away.
screw up, Slang.
  1. to ruin through bungling or stupidity:
    Somehow the engineers screwed up the entire construction project.
  2. to make a botch of something; blunder:
    Sorry, I guess I screwed up.
  3. to make confused, anxious, or neurotic:
    Losing your job can really screw you up.
have a screw loose, Slang. to be eccentric or neurotic; have crazy ideas:
You must have a screw loose to keep so many cats.
have one’s head screwed on right/straight. head (def 67).
put the screws on, to compel by exerting pressure on; use coercion on; force:
They kept putting the screws on him for more money.
Origin of screw
1375-1425; late Middle English scrwe, screw(e) (noun); compare Middle French escro(ue) nut, Middle Dutch schrûve, Middle High German schrûbe screw
Related forms
screwable, adjective
screwer, noun
screwless, adjective
screwlike, adjective
20. wring, wrest, force, exact, squeeze. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for screwed up
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I had been thinking and thinking, and at last I screwed up my courage to answer his letter.

  • So she screwed up her courage and returned to the side porch to get a lantern.

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • His face was screwed up into the expression Tresler had begun to recognize as a smile.

    The Night Riders Ridgwell Cullum
  • He put his glass in his eye, screwed up the left side of his face, and looked at her.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • When the pins are all inserted the brackets are screwed up by the screws at E.

    On Laboratory Arts Richard Threlfall
British Dictionary definitions for screwed up


a device used for fastening materials together, consisting of a threaded and usually tapered shank that has a slotted head by which it may be rotated so as to cut its own thread as it bores through the material
Also called screw-bolt. a threaded cylindrical rod that engages with a similarly threaded cylindrical hole; bolt
a thread in a cylindrical hole corresponding with that on the bolt or screw with which it is designed to engage
anything resembling a screw in shape or spiral form
a twisting movement of or resembling that of a screw
(billiards, snooker) Also called screw-back
  1. a stroke in which the cue ball recoils or moves backward after striking the object ball, made by striking the cue ball below its centre
  2. the motion resulting from this stroke
another name for propeller (sense 1)
(slang) a prison guard
(Brit, slang) salary, wages, or earnings
(Brit) a small amount of salt, tobacco, etc, in a twist of paper
(slang) a person who is mean with money
(slang) an old, unsound, or worthless horse
(often pl) (slang) force or compulsion (esp in the phrase put the screws on)
(slang) sexual intercourse
(informal) have a screw loose, to be insane
(slang) turn the screw, tighten the screw, to increase the pressure
(transitive) to rotate (a screw or bolt) so as to drive it into or draw it out of a material
(transitive) to cut a screw thread in (a rod or hole) with a tap or die or on a lathe
to turn or cause to turn in the manner of a screw
(transitive) to attach or fasten with a screw or screws
(transitive) (informal) to take advantage of; cheat
(transitive) often foll by up. to distort or contort: he screwed his face into a scowl
Also screw back. to impart a screw to (a ball)
(transitive, often foll by from or out of) to coerce or force out of; extort
(slang) to have sexual intercourse (with)
(transitive) (slang) to burgle
(informal) have one's head screwed on, have one's head screwed on the right way, to be wise or sensible
See also screw up
Derived Forms
screwer, noun
screwlike, adjective
Usage note
The use of this otherwise utilitarian word in a sexual sense, though recorded in an 18th century slang dictionary, does not appear to have really taken off until well into the 20th. Although a classic example of the anatomical metaphor for the sex act seen from the male point of view, it can be used as a transitive verb by women, which suggests that the metaphor is all but dead
Word Origin
C15: from French escroe, from Medieval Latin scrōfa screw, from Latin: sow, presumably because the thread of the screw is like the spiral of the sow's tail
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 screwed up



"cylinder of wood or metal with a spiral ridge round it; hole in which a screw turns," c.1400, from Middle French escroue "nut, cylindrical socket, screwhole," of uncertain etymology; not found in other Romanic languages. Perhaps via Gallo-Romance *scroba or West Germanic *scruva from Vulgar Latin scrobis "screw-head groove," in classical Latin "ditch, trench," also "vagina" (Diez, though OED finds this "phonologically impossible").

Kluge, Watkins and others trace it to Latin scrofa "breeding sow," perhaps based on the shape of a pig's penis (cf. Portuguese porca, Spanish perca "a female screw," from Latin porca "sow"). Latin scrofa is literally "digger, rooter," from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (see shear (v.)). A group of apparently cognate Germanic words (Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schruve, Dutch schroef, German Schraube, Swedish skrufva "screw") are said to be French loan-words.

Sense of "means of pressure or coercion" is from 1640s, probably in reference to instruments of torture (e.g. thumbscrews). Meaning "prison guard, warden" is 1812 in underworld slang, originally in reference to the key they carried (screw as slang for "key" attested from 1795). Slang meaning "an act of copulation" is recorded from 1929 (meaning "a prostitute" is attested from 1725). To have a screw loose "have a dangerous (usually mental) weakness" is recorded from 1810.



"to twist (something) like a screw," 1590s, from screw (n.). From 1610s as "to attach with a screw." Slang meaning "to copulate" dates from at least 1725, originally usually of the action of the male, on the notion of driving a screw into something. Meaning "defraud, cheat" is from 1900. First recorded 1949 in exclamations as a euphemism. Related: Screwed; screwing. To screw up "blunder" is recorded from 1942. Screwed up originally was figurative for "tuned to a high or precise pitch" (1907), an image from the pegs of stringed instruments. Meaning "confused, muddled" attested from 1943. Expression to have (one's) head screwed on the right (or wrong) way is from 1821.

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

screwed up

adjective phrase

  1. Confused; tangled; spoiled, esp by bungling; balled up, fucked up: He screwed up the punch line
  2. Mentally and emotionally disturbed; neurotic; fucked up: Hamlet was a sad, screwed-up type guy (WWII armed forces)

screw 1


  1. : She loves a good screw (1929+)
  2. A person regarded merely as a sex object: She's only a medium screw (1937+)


  1. To do the sex act with or to someone; fuck • Felt by many to be excusable when fuck is the term really intended, and used as an attenuated form in nearly the whole range of fuck senses and compounds: At last people are screwing like minks (1785+)
  2. To take advantage of; swindle; maltreat; fuck • Rapidly losing all offensive impact: The city's taxpayers get screwed (1900+)

Related Terms

goat fuck, put the screws to someone, throw a fuck into someone

[screw, ''strumpet, prostitute,'' is found by 1725]

screw 2


A prison guard or warden; turnkey: a hardboiled screw

[1812+ Underworld; fr 1700s underworld, ''a skeleton key,'' then turnkey, the bearer of such a key]



To leave hastily; flee; scram: Now go on. Screw

[entry 1896+, variant 1908+; perhaps imitative of scram; perhaps semantically derived fr fuck off, ''leave, depart,'' by way of less taboo screw off]

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