Origin of crank-up

First recorded in 1905–10; noun use of verb phrase crank up


  1. 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.
  2. Informal. an ill-tempered, grouchy person.
  3. an unbalanced person who is overzealous in the advocacy of a private cause.
  4. an eccentric or whimsical notion.
  5. a strikingly clever turn of speech or play on words.
  6. Archaic. a bend; turn.
  7. Slang. the nasal decongestant propylhexedrine, used illicitly for its euphoric effects.
  8. Automotive Slang. a crankshaft.
verb (used with object)
  1. to bend into or make in the shape of a crank.
  2. to furnish with a crank.
  3. Machinery. to rotate (a shaft) by means of a crank.
  4. to start (an internal-combustion engine) by turning the crankshaft manually or by means of a small motor.
  5. to start the engine of (a motor vehicle) by turning the crankshaft manually.
verb (used without object)
  1. to turn a crank, as in starting an automobile engine.
  2. Obsolete. to turn and twist; zigzag.
  1. unstable; shaky; unsteady.
  2. of, relating to, or by an unbalanced or overzealous person: a crank phone call; crank mail.
  3. British Dialect. cranky1(def 5).
Verb Phrases
  1. crank down, to cause to diminish or terminate: the president's efforts to crank down inflation.
  2. crank in/into, to incorporate as an integral part: Overhead is cranked into the retail cost.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Origin of crank

before 1000; Middle English cranke, Old English cranc-, in crancstǣf crank (see staff1)
Related formscrank·less, adjectivenon·crank·ing, adjectiveun·cranked, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for crank up

crank up

verb (tr) slang
  1. to increase (loudness, output, etc)he cranked up his pace
  2. to set in motion or invigoratenews editors have to crank up tired reporters
  3. (intr, adverb) to inject a narcotic drug


  1. 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
  2. Also called: crank handle, starting handle a handle incorporating a crank, used to start an engine or motor
  3. informal
    1. an eccentric or odd person, esp someone who stubbornly maintains unusual views
    2. US and Canadiana bad-tempered person
  1. (tr) to rotate (a shaft) by means of a crank
  2. (tr) to start (an engine, motor, etc) by means of a crank handle
  3. (tr) to bend, twist, or make into the shape of a crank
  4. (intr) obsolete to twist or wind
See also crank up

Word Origin for crank

Old English cranc; related to Middle Low German krunke wrinkle, Dutch krinkel crinkle




  1. (of a sailing vessel) easily keeled over by the wind; tender

Word Origin for crank

C17: of uncertain origin; perhaps related to crank 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 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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. [Slang; 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. [Slang; mid-1900s]

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