[ skroo ]
See synonyms for: screwscrewedscrewing on

  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  1. British. a tapped or threaded hole.

  2. something having a spiral form.

  3. Usually screws. physical or mental coercion: The terrified debtor soon felt the gangster's screws.

  4. a single turn of a screw.

  5. a twist, turn, or twisting movement.

  6. Chiefly British.

    • 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.

  7. British Informal. salary; wages: It's not my dream job, but the screw's decent enough.

  8. Slang. a prison guard.

  9. Slang: Vulgar.

verb (used with object)
  1. 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.

  2. to operate or adjust by a screw, as a press.

  1. to attach with a screw or screws: to screw a bracket to a wall.

  2. to insert, fasten, undo, or work (a screw, bolt, nut, bottle top with a helical thread, etc.) by turning.

  3. to contort as by twisting; distort (often followed by up): Dad screwed his face into a grimace of disgust.

  4. to cause to become sufficiently strong or intense (usually followed by up): I screwed up my courage to ask for a raise.

  5. to coerce or threaten.

  6. to extract or extort.

  7. to force (a seller) to lower a price (often followed by down).

  8. Slang. to cheat or take advantage of (someone).

  9. Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse with.

verb (used without object)
  1. to turn as or like a screw.

  2. 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.

  1. to turn or move with a twisting or rotating motion.

  2. to practice extortion.

  3. Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse.

Verb Phrases
  1. screw around, Slang.

    • 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.

  2. screw off, Slang.

    • to do nothing; loaf.

    • to leave; go away.

  1. screw up, Slang.

    • 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.

Idioms about screw

  1. have a screw loose, Slang. to be eccentric or neurotic; have crazy ideas: You must have a screw loose to keep so many cats.

  2. have one’s head screwed on right/straight. head (def. 67).

  1. put the screws on, to compel by exerting pressure on; use coercion on; force: They kept putting the screws on him for more money.

Origin of screw

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

Other words for screw

Other words from screw

  • screw·a·ble, adjective
  • screwer, noun
  • screwless, adjective
  • screwlike, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use screw in a sentence

  • He was voluble in his declarations that they would “put the screws” to Ollie on the charge of perjury.

    The Bondboy | George W. (George Washington) Ogden
  • The treasure consisted in this case of a quantity of bent and rusty nails of all sizes, and a few screws and nuts.

    The Box-Car Children | Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • The humidity of the earth had rusted the screws, and it was not without some difficulty that the coffin was opened.

    Camille (La Dame aux Camilias) | Alexandre Dumas, fils
  • The heads of these screws are shown in the plate, between the springs which press the plate-holder against its bed.

    Photographs of Nebul and Clusters | James Edward Keeler
  • In practice it is seldom necessary to touch the adjusting screws of the mirrors themselves.

    Photographs of Nebul and Clusters | James Edward Keeler

British Dictionary definitions for screw


/ (skruː) /

  1. 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

  2. Also called: screw-bolt a threaded cylindrical rod that engages with a similarly threaded cylindrical hole; bolt

  1. a thread in a cylindrical hole corresponding with that on the bolt or screw with which it is designed to engage

  2. anything resembling a screw in shape or spiral form

  3. a twisting movement of or resembling that of a screw

  4. Also called: screw-back billiards snooker

    • 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

  5. another name for propeller (def. 1)

  6. slang a prison guard

  7. British slang salary, wages, or earnings

  8. British a small amount of salt, tobacco, etc, in a twist of paper

  9. slang a person who is mean with money

  10. slang an old, unsound, or worthless horse

  11. (often plural) slang force or compulsion (esp in the phrase put the screws on)

  12. slang sexual intercourse

  13. have a screw loose informal to be insane

  14. turn the screw or tighten the screw slang to increase the pressure

  1. (tr) to rotate (a screw or bolt) so as to drive it into or draw it out of a material

  2. (tr) to cut a screw thread in (a rod or hole) with a tap or die or on a lathe

  1. to turn or cause to turn in the manner of a screw

  2. (tr) to attach or fasten with a screw or screws

  3. (tr) informal to take advantage of; cheat

  4. (tr often foll by up) to distort or contort: he screwed his face into a scowl

  5. Also: screw back to impart a screw to (a ball)

  6. (tr, often foll by from or out of) to coerce or force out of; extort

  7. slang to have sexual intercourse (with)

  8. (tr) slang to burgle

  9. have one's head screwed on or have one's head screwed on the right way informal to be wise or sensible

Origin of 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

usage For screw

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

Derived forms of screw

  • screwer, noun
  • screwlike, adjective

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with screw


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.