Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To shrink back, as in fear; cower.
  • intransitive verb To behave in a servile way; fawn.
  • noun An act or instance of cringing.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A servile or fawning obeisance.
  • To bend; crouch; especially, to bend or crouch with servility or from fear or cowardice; fawn; cower.
  • Synonyms To stoop, truckle.
  • To contract; distort.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb obsolete To contract; to draw together; to cause to shrink or wrinkle; to distort.
  • transitive verb To draw one's self together as in fear or servility; to bend or crouch with base humility; to wince; hence, to make court in a degrading manner; to fawn.
  • noun Servile civility; fawning; a shrinking or bowing, as in fear or servility.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A posture or gesture of shrinking or recoiling.
  • noun dialect A crick.
  • verb dated To bow or crouch in servility.
  • verb To shrink, tense or recoil, as in fear, disgust or embarrassment.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb show submission or fear
  • verb draw back, as with fear or pain

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English crengen, to bend haughtily, probably ultimately from Old English cringan, to give way.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Via Middle English, from Old English cringan.

Examples

  • One thing that makes me cringe is seeing politicians from the mainstream parties acting as apologists for BNP voters.

    Voting for racism is racist

  • What makes me cringe is the wanton mis-use of “have”, plus the non-use of it when required: “I seen my friends at Walmarts yestidday” is a common phrase here.

    Colour them turtles faster, Boy…. « Mudpuddle

  • One thing that makes me cringe is seeing politicians from the mainstream parties acting as apologists for BNP voters.

    Archive 2009-06-01

  • The cringe is a successful technique for deflecting aggression … Just as we are genetically programmed to seek signs of love and loyalty, dogs are genetically programmed to exploit this foible of ours.

    The Animal Kingdom

  • The cringe is a successful technique for deflecting aggression … Just as we are genetically programmed to seek signs of love and loyalty, dogs are genetically programmed to exploit this foible of ours.

    The Animal Kingdom

  • He said he would never again cringe before his father.

    Poetry Friday

  • On its website, however, the cultural cringe is evident and double standards obtain.

    Double Standards

  • He said he would never again cringe before his father.

    Archive 2006-07-01

  • The cringe is a successful technique for deflecting aggression.

    The Truth About Dogs

  • The cringe is a successful technique for deflecting aggression.

    The Truth About Dogs

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • what happens when you are hit with a pundit

    April 4, 2009

  • Eclispe by Stephenie Meyer Page 81

    -"I felt Edward cringe."

    November 1, 2010

  • The relatively new noun sense, in particular:

    https://www.vox.com/the-goods/21575707/tiktok-cringe

    Louisa is one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of people to go viral on TikTok not because people enjoyed their videos but because they were embarrassed by them. They’re a part of the internet largely grouped as “cringe,” used as both adjective and noun: content deemed humiliating on account of the poster’s looks, behavior, or talent, and the lack of apparent self-awareness about those things. The top tier of digital cringe is created by people who not only lack self-awareness but lack it enough to share themselves in the hope that other people will be impressed, then fail to realize when the general response is laughter.

    November 20, 2020