verb (used with object), tan·gled, tan·gling.

verb (used without object), tan·gled, tan·gling.

to be or become tangled.
Informal. to come into conflict; fight or argue: I don't want to tangle with him over the new ruling.


Origin of tangle

1300–50; Middle English tangilen, tagilen to entangle < Scandinavian; compare Swedish (dial.) taggla to disarrange
Related formstan·gle·ment, nountan·gler, nountan·gly, adverb

Synonyms for tangle


[tang-guh l]


any of several large seaweeds of the genus Laminaria.

Origin of tangle

1530–40; < Scandinavian; compare Old Norse thǫngull strand of tangle, Norwegian tang
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tangle

Contemporary Examples of tangle

Historical Examples of tangle

  • "It wasn't just a tangle, like combings," she went on slowly.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • He looked backward from the heights above the tangle after they had come through it.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • It is a nest of greenery in the midst of a tangle of brushwood.

  • What on earth could I do when affairs were in such a tangle?

  • There was a tangle of undergrowth, and a heavy grove of palms.

    Things as They Are

    Amy Wilson-Carmichael

British Dictionary definitions for tangle




a confused or complicated mass of hairs, lines, fibres, etc, knotted or coiled together
a complicated problem, condition, or situation


to become or cause to become twisted together in a confused mass
(intr often foll by with) to come into conflict; contendto tangle with the police
(tr) to involve in matters which hinder or confuseto tangle someone in a shady deal
(tr) to ensnare or trap, as in a net
Derived Formstanglement, nountangler, nountangly, adjective

Word Origin for tangle

C14 tangilen, variant of tagilen, probably of Scandinavian origin; related to Swedish dialect taggla to entangle



tangle weed


alternative names (esp Scot) for oarweed

Word Origin for tangle

C16: of Scandinavian origin: compare Danish tang seaweed
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 tangle

mid-14c., nasalized variant of tagilen "to involve in a difficult situation, entangle," from a Scandinavian source (cf. dialectal Swedish taggla "to disorder," Old Norse þongull "seaweed"). In reference to material things, from c.1500. Meaning "to fight with" is American English, first recorded 1928. Related: Tangled; tangling. Tanglefoot (1859) was Western American English slang for "strong whiskey."


1610s, "a tangled condition," from tangle (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper