• synonyms


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 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. 2018

Related Words for tangling

mess, labyrinth, snarl, coil, skein, morass, entangle, perplex, embroil, confuse, enmesh, trap, jam, complication, web, muddle, snag, twist, mesh, mass

Examples from the Web for tangling

Contemporary Examples of tangling

Historical Examples of tangling

  • He is seeing ghosts, cried Daniel, he is tangling up the threads of my life.

    The Goose Man

    Jacob Wassermann

  • There has been a tangling of his affairs by somebody, but that does not change the truth.

    The Price of the Prairie

    Margaret Hill McCarter

  • When women get to tangling up money with their own doings, it's the devil.

    Joyce of the North Woods

    Harriet T. Comstock

  • In the meantime there was no sense in tangling up with discussions.

    The Rules of the Game

    Stewart Edward White

  • All the same the time is set and the tangling of no more makes the hand-shaking.

British Dictionary definitions for tangling


  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 for tangle

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 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 tangling



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