[ krinj ]
See synonyms for: cringecringedcringing on

verb (used without object),cringed, cring·ing.
  1. to shrink back, bend, or crouch, especially in fear, pain, or servility; cower: She cringed in a corner and started praying. They cringed and bowed before the king.

  2. to feel very embarrassed or awkward; react with discomfort: Some of us cringed at the speaker’s tactless comments.

  1. to seek favor by acting in a servile way; fawn: He has never cringed to anyone—in fact, he can sometimes be a bully.

  1. an act or instance of shrinking back, bending, or crouching: The gunshots elicited a cringe of terror.

  2. an instance of being very embarrassed, awkward, or uncomfortable: Some of his outfits are bizarre enough to induce a cringe or two.

  1. servile or fawning deference.

  1. Slang. causing embarrassment or resulting in awkward discomfort; cringeworthy; cringey: Her attempt to rap at the talent show was so very cringe.

Origin of cringe

First recorded in 1175–1225; Middle English crengen, crenchen (transitive); Old English crencean, crencgean (unattested), causative of cringan, crincan “to yield, fall (in battle)”

Other words from cringe

  • cring·er, noun
  • cring·ing·ly, adverb
  • cring·ing·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use cringe in a sentence

  • You could almost hear Kagan, Breyer and Ginsburg cringing every time she spoke.

    Justice Roberts Shines | David Frum | March 28, 2012 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • But when he had finished, Sivert Jespersen, with a cringing smile, said: "I think now we had better sing a hymn."

    Skipper Worse | Alexander Lange Kielland
  • A little cringing shrivelled old man stood up in astonishment.

    The Daisy Chain | Charlotte Yonge
  • If the partners despised us for our cringing before them they were right; we were a despicable set.

  • He stopped and looked back at the people cringing in the doorways.

    The Stutterer | R.R. Merliss
  • In those false, fascinating pages he is a consummate scoundrel, "a mere cringing courtier and a pimp."

    Court Beauties of Old Whitehall | W. R. H. Trowbridge

British Dictionary definitions for cringe


/ (krɪndʒ) /

  1. to shrink or flinch, esp in fear or servility

  2. to behave in a servile or timid way

  1. informal

    • to wince in embarrassment or distaste

    • to experience a sudden feeling of embarrassment or distaste

  1. the act of cringing

  2. the cultural cringe Australian subservience to overseas cultural standards

Origin of cringe

Old English cringan to yield in battle; related to Old Norse krangr weak, Middle High German krenken to weaken

Derived forms of cringe

  • cringer, noun
  • cringingly, adverb

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