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. 2019

Examples from the Web for cranked

Contemporary Examples of cranked

Historical Examples of cranked

British Dictionary definitions for cranked


  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 cranked



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