or screw-up


noun Slang.

a mistake or blunder: The package was delayed through an addressing screwup.
a habitual blunderer.

Nearby words

  1. screwed,
  2. screwed up,
  3. screwhead,
  4. screwpine,
  5. screwplate,
  6. screwworm,
  7. screwworm fly,
  8. screwy,
  9. scriabin,
  10. scribble

Origin of screwup

1955–60; Americanism; noun use of verb phrase screw up




a metal fastener having a tapered shank with a helical thread, and topped with a slotted head, driven into wood or the like by rotating, especially by means of a screwdriver.
a threaded cylindrical pin or rod with a head at one end, engaging a threaded hole and used either as a fastener or as a simple machine for applying power, as in a clamp, jack, etc.Compare bolt1(def 3).
British. a tapped or threaded hole.
something having a spiral form.
Usually screws. physical or mental coercion: The terrified debtor soon felt the gangster's screws.
a single turn of a screw.
a twist, turn, or twisting movement.
Chiefly British.
  1. a little salt, sugar, tobacco, etc., carried in a twist of paper.
  2. Slang.a mean, old, or worn-out horse; a horse from which one can obtain no further service.
  3. Slang.a friend or employer from whom one can obtain no more money.
  4. Slang.a miser.
British Informal. salary; wages.
Slang. a prison guard.
Slang: Vulgar.
  1. an act of coitus.
  2. a person viewed as a sexual partner.

verb (used with object)

to fasten, tighten, force, press, stretch tight, etc., by or as if by means of a screw or device operated by a screw or helical threads.
to operate or adjust by a screw, as a press.
to attach with a screw or screws: to screw a bracket to a wall.
to insert, fasten, undo, or work (a screw, bolt, nut, bottle top with a helical thread, etc.) by turning.
to contort as by twisting; distort (often followed by up): Dad screwed his face into a grimace of disgust.
to cause to become sufficiently strong or intense (usually followed by up): I screwed up my courage to ask for a raise.
to coerce or threaten.
to extract or extort.
to force (a seller) to lower a price (often followed by down).
Slang. to cheat or take advantage of (someone).
Slang: Vulgar. to have coitus with.

verb (used without object)

to turn as or like a screw.
to be adapted for being connected, taken apart, opened, or closed by means of a screw or screws or parts with helical threads (usually followed by on, together, or off): This top screws on easily.
to turn or move with a twisting or rotating motion.
to practice extortion.
Slang: Vulgar. to have coitus.

Verb Phrases

screw around, Slang.
  1. to waste time in foolish or frivolous activity: If you'd stop screwing around we could get this job done.
  2. engage in promiscuous sex.
screw off, Slang.
  1. to do nothing; loaf.
  2. to leave; go away.
screw up, Slang.
  1. to ruin through bungling or stupidity: Somehow the engineers screwed up the entire construction project.
  2. to make a botch of something; blunder: Sorry, I guess I screwed up.
  3. to make confused, anxious, or neurotic: Losing your job can really screw you up.

Origin of screw

1375–1425; late Middle English scrwe, screw(e) (noun); compare Middle French escro(ue) nut, Middle Dutch schrûve, Middle High German schrûbe screw

Related formsscrew·a·ble, adjectivescrew·er, nounscrew·less, adjectivescrew·like, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for screw-up

British Dictionary definitions for screw-up



a device used for fastening materials together, consisting of a threaded and usually tapered shank that has a slotted head by which it may be rotated so as to cut its own thread as it bores through the material
Also called: screw-bolt a threaded cylindrical rod that engages with a similarly threaded cylindrical hole; bolt
a thread in a cylindrical hole corresponding with that on the bolt or screw with which it is designed to engage
anything resembling a screw in shape or spiral form
a twisting movement of or resembling that of a screw
Also called: screw-back billiards snooker
  1. 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
  2. the motion resulting from this stroke
another name for propeller (def. 1)
slang a prison guard
British slang salary, wages, or earnings
British a small amount of salt, tobacco, etc, in a twist of paper
slang a person who is mean with money
slang an old, unsound, or worthless horse
(often plural) slang force or compulsion (esp in the phrase put the screws on)
slang sexual intercourse
have a screw loose informal to be insane
turn the screw or tighten the screw slang to increase the pressure


(tr) to rotate (a screw or bolt) so as to drive it into or draw it out of a material
(tr) to cut a screw thread in (a rod or hole) with a tap or die or on a lathe
to turn or cause to turn in the manner of a screw
(tr) to attach or fasten with a screw or screws
(tr) informal to take advantage of; cheat
(tr often foll by up) to distort or contorthe screwed his face into a scowl
Also: screw back to impart a screw to (a ball)
(tr, often foll by from or out of) to coerce or force out of; extort
slang to have sexual intercourse (with)
(tr) slang to burgle
have one's head screwed on or have one's head screwed on the right way informal to be wise or sensible
See also screw up

Derived Formsscrewer, nounscrewlike, adjective

Word Origin for screw

C15: from French escroe, from Medieval Latin scrōfa screw, from Latin: sow, presumably because the thread of the screw is like the spiral of the sow's tail


The use of this otherwise utilitarian word in a sexual sense, though recorded in an 18th century slang dictionary, does not appear to have really taken off until well into the 20th. Although a classic example of the anatomical metaphor for the sex act seen from the male point of view, it can be used as a transitive verb by women, which suggests that the metaphor is all but dead

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 screw-up
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with screw-up


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

also see:

  • have a screw loose
  • pluck (screw) up one's courage
  • tighten the screws
  • turn up the heat (put the screws on)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.