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verb (used without object), grap·pled, grap·pling.
  1. to hold or make fast to something, as with a grapple.
  2. to use a grapple.
  3. to seize another, or each other, in a firm grip, as in wrestling; clinch.
  4. to engage in a struggle or close encounter (usually followed by with): He was grappling with a boy twice his size.
  5. to try to overcome or deal (usually followed by with): to grapple with a problem.
verb (used with object), grap·pled, grap·pling.
  1. to seize, hold, or fasten with or as with a grapple.
  2. to seize in a grip, take hold of: The thug grappled him around the neck.
  1. a hook or an iron instrument by which one thing, as a ship, fastens onto another; grapnel.
  2. a seizing or gripping.
  3. a grip or close hold in wrestling or hand-to-hand fighting.
  4. a close, hand-to-hand fight.

Origin of grapple

1520–30; apparently a frequentative of Old English gegrǣppian to seize; associated with grapnel
Related formsgrap·pler, nounin·ter·grap·ple, verb, in·ter·grap·pled, in·ter·grap·pling.un·grap·pled, adjective

Synonyms for grapple

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for grapple


  1. to come to grips with (one or more persons), esp to struggle in hand-to-hand combat
  2. (intr foll by with) to cope or contendto grapple with a financial problem
  3. (tr) to secure with a grapple
  1. any form of hook or metal instrument by which something is secured, such as a grapnel
    1. the act of gripping or seizing, as in wrestling
    2. a grip or hold
  2. a contest of grappling, esp a wrestling match
Derived Formsgrappler, noun

Word Origin for grapple

C16: from Old French grappelle a little hook, from grape hook; see grapnel
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 grapple

late 13c., from Old French grapil "hook" (see grapnel). The verb is 1520s, "seize and hold fast," from the noun. Sense of "battle, struggle (with)" is from 1590s. Related: Grappled; grappling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper