• synonyms


[tang-guh ld]
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  1. snarled, interlaced, or mixed up: tangled thread.
  2. very complicated, intricate, or involved: tangled bureaucratic procedures.
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Origin of tangled

First recorded in 1580–90; tangle1 + -ed2


[tang-guh l]
verb (used with object), tan·gled, tan·gling.
  1. to bring together into a mass of confusedly interlaced or intertwisted threads, strands, or other like parts; snarl.
  2. to involve in something that hampers, obstructs, or overgrows: The bushes were tangled with vines.
  3. to catch and hold in or as if in a net or snare.
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verb (used without object), tan·gled, tan·gling.
  1. to be or become tangled.
  2. Informal. to come into conflict; fight or argue: I don't want to tangle with him over the new ruling.
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  1. a tangled condition or situation.
  2. a tangled or confused mass or assemblage of something.
  3. a confused jumble: a tangle of contradictory statements.
  4. Informal. a conflict; disagreement: He got into a tangle with the governor.
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Origin of tangle1

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


See more synonyms for tangle on Thesaurus.com
8. snarl, net, labyrinth, maze.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tangled

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "Aaron Goldschmidt," he whispered, as we descended into a dry, tangled swamp.

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

  • The last I saw of the trenches was the tangled line on Fusilier Bluff.

  • If he hadn't been tangled up in his cod line, so we could haul him up by that, he'd have been down yet.

    Cape Cod Stories

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • It is unnecessary to repeat the whole of the long and tangled conversation that ensued.

    Cap'n Eri

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • My life has been one long error, and the threads of my fate have been tangled.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for tangled


  1. a confused or complicated mass of hairs, lines, fibres, etc, knotted or coiled together
  2. a complicated problem, condition, or situation
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  1. to become or cause to become twisted together in a confused mass
  2. (intr often foll by with) to come into conflict; contendto tangle with the police
  3. (tr) to involve in matters which hinder or confuseto tangle someone in a shady deal
  4. (tr) to ensnare or trap, as in a net
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Derived Formstanglement, nountangler, nountangly, adjective

Word Origin

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


tangle weed

  1. alternative names (esp Scot) for oarweed
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Word Origin

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 tangled



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."

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper