- a little salt, sugar, tobacco, etc., carried in a twist of paper.
- Slang.a mean, old, or worn-out horse; a horse from which one can obtain no further service.
- Slang.a friend or employer from whom one can obtain no more money.
- Slang.a miser.
- an act of coitus.
- a person viewed as a sexual partner.
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- to waste time in foolish or frivolous activity: If you'd stop screwing around we could get this job done.
- Vulgar.to engage in promiscuous sex.
- to do nothing; loaf.
- to leave; go away.
- to ruin through bungling or stupidity: Somehow the engineers screwed up the entire construction project.
- to make a botch of something; blunder: Sorry, I guess I screwed up.
- to make confused, anxious, or neurotic: Losing your job can really screw you up.
Origin of screw
Synonyms for screw
- a stroke in which the cue ball recoils or moves backward after striking the object ball, made by striking the cue ball below its centre
- the motion resulting from this stroke
Word Origin for screw
"cylinder of wood or metal with a spiral ridge round it; hole in which a screw turns," c.1400, from Middle French escroue "nut, cylindrical socket, screwhole," of uncertain etymology; not found in other Romanic languages. Perhaps via Gallo-Romance *scroba or West Germanic *scruva from Vulgar Latin scrobis "screw-head groove," in classical Latin "ditch, trench," also "vagina" (Diez, though OED finds this "phonologically impossible").
Kluge, Watkins and others trace it to Latin scrofa "breeding sow," perhaps based on the shape of a pig's penis (cf. Portuguese porca, Spanish perca "a female screw," from Latin porca "sow"). Latin scrofa is literally "digger, rooter," from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (see shear (v.)). A group of apparently cognate Germanic words (Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schruve, Dutch schroef, German Schraube, Swedish skrufva "screw") are said to be French loan-words.
Sense of "means of pressure or coercion" is from 1640s, probably in reference to instruments of torture (e.g. thumbscrews). Meaning "prison guard, warden" is 1812 in underworld slang, originally in reference to the key they carried (screw as slang for "key" attested from 1795). Slang meaning "an act of copulation" is recorded from 1929 (meaning "a prostitute" is attested from 1725). To have a screw loose "have a dangerous (usually mental) weakness" is recorded from 1810.
"to twist (something) like a screw," 1590s, from screw (n.). From 1610s as "to attach with a screw." Slang meaning "to copulate" dates from at least 1725, originally usually of the action of the male, on the notion of driving a screw into something. Meaning "defraud, cheat" is from 1900. First recorded 1949 in exclamations as a euphemism. Related: Screwed; screwing. To screw up "blunder" is recorded from 1942. Screwed up originally was figurative for "tuned to a high or precise pitch" (1907), an image from the pegs of stringed instruments. Meaning "confused, muddled" attested from 1943. Expression to have (one's) head screwed on the right (or wrong) way is from 1821.
Fool around aimlessly, accomplishing nothing, as in If you boys would stop screwing around we'd have the fence painted in an hour. It is also put as screw around with, as in Stop screwing around with the new camera. The idiom probably derives from screw in the sense of “turn” or “twist.” [Slang; second half of 1900s]
Be sexually promiscuous, as in He's been screwing around behind her back for years. [Vulgar slang; first half of 1900s]
In addition to the idioms beginning with screw
- screw around
- screw loose
- screw someone out of
- screw up
- screw up one's courage
- screw you
- have a screw loose
- pluck (screw) up one's courage
- tighten the screws
- turn up the heat (put the screws on)