adjective, cling·i·er, cling·i·est.
QUIZ YOURSELF ON “THEIR,” “THERE,” AND “THEY’RE”
OTHER WORDS FROM clingycling·i·ness, noun
Words nearby clingy
BEHIND THE WORD
What does clingy mean?
Where does clingy come from?
The word clingy is recorded in the early 1700s, originally used to describe objects that would literally cling to things. Clingy, referring to people, emerges by the late 19th century. In an 1896 issue of Munsey’s Magazine, for instance, a woman describes more delicate peers, said to depend on men to provide for them and save them from snakes and wild animals, as “Clingy Vine” women. This use helps illustrate the evolution of clingy from literal, physical clinging to metaphorical, emotional kinds.
In his work on attachment theory in children in the 1970s, Dr. John Bowlby described children who were too emotionally dependent on their parents as acting clingy, unwilling to be separated from them. Bowlby’s work contributed to the wider field of psychology and helped parents to manage clingy children (and maybe even vice versa).
Describing romantic partners, typically boyfriends or girlfriends, as clingy takes off at least by the early 1990s. Online around this time, people were comparing clingy partners to toddlers and pets who displayed similar behavior.
How is clingy used in real life?
Children and partners are often described as clingy. When used about children, clingy is often discussed as a phase for toddlers. When used about partners, clingy tends to be a negative term more often issued as a complaint against girlfriends who need too much attention.
Be mindful that clingy can be considered a gendered term and potentially sexist stereotype, and it may appear alongside needy or high-maintenance. (Men may be described as possessive, controlling, or jealous for similar behaviors.) A popular 2012 meme, Overly Attached Girlfriend, memorably parodied clingy behavior, especially as it spilled over into the creepy.
More examples of clingy:
“He got more possessive and more clingy towards her, and wouldn’t let her do certain things.”
—Lauren Hutton interviewed by Joseph Diaz, Keturah Gray, and Lauren Effron, ABC News, September 2018
Example sentences from the Web for clingy
Malaria parasites survive tough times by not being too clingy.How malaria parasites hide from the human immune system|Erin Garcia de Jesus|October 26, 2020|Science News
Over the years, Miss Piggy has been faulted for her clingy, seemingly obsessive relationship with Kermit the Frog.
And a few weeks later, he committed the same offense, stepping outside in some (un)fortunately super-clingy pants.‘Mad Men’: Jon Hamm’s Penis is Too Big for Clothes, Needs Airbrushing|Anna Klassen|March 20, 2013|DAILY BEAST
Vivian Salama on why Yemenis can't shake their clingy ex-president.
If Karzai were a clingy ex, Obama could then change his phone number or, in the worst-case scenario, file a restraining order.
Clad head to toe in clingy black fabrics—the top half of her sequined!
And when he had made up his mind what to do he gritted his teeth and put both arms about the Clingy Thing.Princeton Stories|Jesse Lynch Williams
She was as remote as the stars, he knew, yet a moment before he had felt her soft, clingy scarf blowing against his face.God's Green Country|Ethel M. Chapman
I hed a gown o' thet once: it was drefful kind o' clingy stuff.Mercy Philbrick's Choice|Helen Hunt Jackson
The stuff was spongy and sticky and clingy, and he had now sunk deep into it up to his stomach.Zip, the Adventures of a Frisky Fox Terrier|Frances Trego Montgomery