Often cramps.
  1. a sudden, involuntary, spasmodic contraction of a muscle or group of muscles, especially of the extremities, sometimes with severe pain.
  2. a piercing pain in the abdomen.
  3. an intermittent, painful contraction of structures of a wall containing involuntary muscle, as in biliary colic or in the uterine contractions of menstruation or of labor.

verb (used with object)

to affect with or as if with a cramp.

Origin of cramp

1325–75; Middle English crampe < Old French < Germanic; cognate with Middle Dutch crampe, Old Saxon krampo, Old High German krampfo; derivative of adj. meaning narrow, constrained, bent; compare Old High German krampf, Old Norse krappr; akin to crimp1




a portable frame or tool with a movable part that can be screwed up to hold things together; clamp.
anything that confines or restrains.
a cramped state or part.

verb (used with object)

to fasten or hold with a cramp.
to confine narrowly; restrict; restrain; hamper.
to turn (the front wheels of a motor vehicle) by means of the steering gear; steer.


Origin of cramp

1375–1425; late Middle English crampe < Middle Dutch: hook. See cramp1
Related formscramp·ing·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cramp

Contemporary Examples of cramp

  • If Prince Harry is back on again with Chelsy Davy, he's not letting it cramp his style.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Prince Harry's Night Out

    Tom Sykes

    March 26, 2012

Historical Examples of cramp

British Dictionary definitions for cramp




a painful involuntary contraction of a muscle, typically caused by overexertion, heat, or chill
temporary partial paralysis of a muscle groupwriter's cramp
(usually plural in the US and Canada) severe abdominal pain


(tr) to affect with or as if with a cramp

Word Origin for cramp

C14: from Old French crampe, of Germanic origin; compare Old High German krampho




Also called: cramp iron a strip of metal with its ends bent at right angles, used to bind masonry
a device for holding pieces of wood while they are glued; clamp
something that confines or restricts
a confined state or position

verb (tr)

to secure or hold with a cramp
to confine, hamper, or restrict
cramp someone's style informal to prevent a person from using his abilities or acting freely and confidently

Word Origin for cramp

C15: from Middle Dutch crampe cramp, hook, of Germanic origin; compare Old High German khramph bent; see cramp 1
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 cramp

"muscle contraction," late 14c., from Old French crampe, from a Frankish or other Germanic word (cf. Old High German krapmhe "cramp, spasm," related to kramph "bent, crooked"), from a Proto-Germanic root forming many words for "bent, crooked," including, via French, crampon. Writer's cramp is first attested 1842 as the name of a physical affliction of the hand, in reference to translations of German medical papers (Stromeyer); also known as scrivener's palsy.


"metal bar bent at both ends," early 15c., from Middle Dutch crampe or Middle Low German krampe, both from the same Proto-Germanic root that yielded cramp (n.1). Metaphoric sense of "something that confines or hinders" first recorded 1719.


"to contract" (of muscles), early 15c., from cramp (n.1). Related: Cramped; cramping.


c.1400, "to bend or twist," from cramp (n.2). Later "compress forcibly" (1550s), and, figuratively, "to restrict" (1620s). Related: Cramped; cramping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cramp in Medicine




A sudden, involuntary, spasmodic muscular contraction causing severe pain, often occurring in the leg or shoulder as the result of strain or chill.
A temporary partial paralysis of habitually or excessively used muscles.
cramps Spasmodic contractions of the uterus, such as those occurring during menstruation or labor, usually causing pain in the abdomen that may radiate to the lower back and thighs.


To affect with or experience a cramp or cramps.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.