verb (used without object)

verb (used with object)

to visit or frequent a series of (especially bars): to crawl the neighborhood pubs.
Also spider. Digital Technology. to retrieve (data) from a website using a computer program, as in order to index web pages for a search engine: Search engines are constantly crawling the web.


Origin of crawl

1150–1200; Middle English crawlen < Old Norse krafla; compare Danish kravle “to crawl, creep”
Related formscrawl·ing·ly, adverb
Can be confusedcraw crawl

Synonym study

1. Crawl, creep refer to methods of moving like reptiles or worms, or on all fours. They are frequently interchangeable, but crawl is used of a more prostrate movement than creep : A dog afraid of punishment crawls toward his master. Creep expresses slow progress: A child creeps before walking or running.



noun Chiefly South Atlantic States.

an enclosure in shallow water on the seacoast, as for confining fish, turtles, etc.: a crab crawl.

Origin of crawl

1650–60; < Dutch kraal < Spanish corral corral; cf. kraal Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for crawl

Contemporary Examples of crawl

Historical Examples of crawl

  • We can only crawl along, having to walk and lead the horses, or at least drag them.

  • "And so belabored as to be scarce able to crawl along it," cried a third.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • I asked him to crawl aft, out of the water; which he did, lying down in the stern-sheets.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Injured men, shot from their saddles, were seeking to crawl out of the way.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • He had the crawl of the reptile,—he had, also, its poison and its fangs.

    Leila, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

British Dictionary definitions for crawl



verb (intr)

to move slowly, either by dragging the body along the ground or on the hands and knees
to proceed or move along very slowly or laboriouslythe traffic crawled along the road
to act or behave in a servile manner; fawn; cringe
to be or feel as if overrun by something unpleasant, esp crawling creaturesthe pile of refuse crawled with insects
(of insects, worms, snakes, etc) to move with the body close to the ground
to swim the crawl


a slow creeping pace or motion
Also called: Australian crawl, front crawl swimming a stroke in which the feet are kicked like paddles while the arms reach forward and pull back through the water
Derived Formscrawlingly, adverb

Word Origin for crawl

C14: probably from Old Norse krafla to creep; compare Swedish kravla, Middle Low German krabbelen to crawl, Old Norse krabbi crab 1




an enclosure in shallow, coastal water for fish, lobsters, etc

Word Origin for crawl

C17: from Dutch kraal kraal
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 crawl

c.1200, creulen, from a Scandinavian source, perhaps Old Norse krafla "to claw (one's way)," from the same root as crab (n.1). If there was an Old English *craflian, it has not been recorded. Related: Crawled; crawling.


1818, from crawl (v.); in the swimming sense from 1903, the stroke developed by Frederick Cavill, well-known English swimmer who emigrated to Australia and modified the standard stroke of the day after observing South Seas islanders. So called because the swimmer's motion in the water resembles crawling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper