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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cranking

Contemporary Examples of cranking

  • A slew of others, including most notably Motorola, Research in Motion (RIM), and Samsung, are cranking out their own versions.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Broke and Buying Anyway

    Dan Lyons

    October 2, 2011

  • But the site seems to be cranking out its own articles and now the aggregation is complementary.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Daily Beast Turns 2!

    Tina Brown

    October 5, 2010

  • A DJ was cranking old disco tunes, everything from the Bee Gees to Chaka Khan.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The New Studio 54

    Jacob Bernstein

    December 1, 2009

Historical Examples of cranking

British Dictionary definitions for cranking




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
Also called: crank handle, starting handle a handle incorporating a crank, used to start an engine or motor
  1. an eccentric or odd person, esp someone who stubbornly maintains unusual views
  2. US and Canadiana bad-tempered person


(tr) to rotate (a shaft) by means of a crank
(tr) to start (an engine, motor, etc) by means of a crank handle
(tr) to bend, twist, or make into the shape of a crank
(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





(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 cranking



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