[tang-guh ld]


snarled, interlaced, or mixed up: tangled thread.
very complicated, intricate, or involved: tangled bureaucratic procedures.

Origin of tangled

First recorded in 1580–90; tangle1 + -ed2



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

to bring together into a mass of confusedly interlaced or intertwisted threads, strands, or other like parts; snarl.
to involve in something that hampers, obstructs, or overgrows: The bushes were tangled with vines.
to catch and hold in or as if in a net or snare.

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.


a tangled condition or situation.
a tangled or confused mass or assemblage of something.
a confused jumble: a tangle of contradictory statements.
Informal. a conflict; disagreement: He got into a tangle with the governor.

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

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tangled

Contemporary Examples of tangled

Historical Examples of tangled

  • "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




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 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."



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper