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See also: Crank



From Middle English cronk, cranke, from Old English cranc, from Proto-West Germanic *krank, from Proto-Germanic *krangaz, *krankaz (bent; weak).

Cognate with German krank (sick), Dutch krank (sick).

This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.
Particularly: “How on earth does the verb sense "to turn by means of a crank" wind up cognate with German krank (sick)? Could someone confirm cognacy, and describe the sense development?”


  • IPA(key): /kɹæŋk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æŋk


crank (comparative cranker, superlative crankest)

  1. (slang) Strange, weird, odd.
  2. Sick; unwell.
    Synonym: infirm
  3. (nautical, of a ship) Liable to capsize because of poorly stowed cargo or insufficient ballast.
    • 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Phantom Ship:
      This ship is so crank and walty
      I fear our grave she will be!
    • 1833, Edgar Allan Poe, MS. Found in a Bottle:
      The stowage was clumsily done, and the vessel consequently crank.
  4. Full of spirit; brisk; lively; sprightly; overconfident; opinionated.



crank (plural cranks)

manual coffee grinder with hand crank (1)
  1. A bent piece of an axle or shaft, or an attached arm perpendicular, or nearly so, to the end of a shaft or wheel, used to impart a rotation to a wheel or other mechanical device; also used to change circular into reciprocating motion, or reciprocating into circular motion.
    I grind my coffee by hand with a coffee grinder with a crank handle.
    1. Clipping of crankshaft.
  2. The act of converting power into motion, by turning a crankshaft.
    Yes, a crank was all it needed to start.
    Give it a forceful crank.
    • 1964 November, E. N. Bellass, “Some questions for Mr. Mugliston”, in Modern Railways, page 330:
      By comparision, consider the conductor of a double-decked Blackpool tram on August Monday, who hurries up and down stairs to a hundred or more passengers and serves each one by a simple crank of a handle.
  3. (archaic) Any bend, turn, or winding, as of a passage.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, The Cantos of Mutabilitie Canto 7
      So many turning cranks these have, so many crooks.
  4. (informal) An ill-tempered or nasty person.
    Billy-Bob is a nasty old crank! He chased my cat away.
  5. A twist or turn of the mind; caprice; whim;
  6. a fit of temper or passion.
  7. (informal, British, dated in US) A person who is considered strange or odd by others, and may behave in unconventional ways.
    Synonyms: kook, odd duck, weirdo, (US) crackpot; see also Thesaurus:strange person
    John is a crank because he talks to himself.
    • 1882 January 14, Pall Mall Gazette:
      Persons whom the Americans since Guiteau’s trial have begun to designate as ‘cranks’—that is to say, persons of disordered mind, in whom the itch of notoriety supplies the lack of any higher ambition.
    • 1901 July 19, “Gleanings”, in The Agricultural Journal and Mining Record[1], volume 4, number 10, page 318:
      The raw meat cranks are in dead earnest. They think that raw food is the manna of heaven.
    • c. 1921 (date written), Karel Čapek, translated by Paul Selver, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots): A Fantastic Melodrama [], Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, published 1923, →OCLC, Act 1:
      But do you know what isn't in the school books? That old Rossum was mad. Seriously, Miss Glory, you must keep this to yourself. The old crank wanted to actually make people.
  8. (archaic, baseball, slang, 1800s) A baseball fan.
  9. (informal) An amateur in science or other technical subjects who persistently advocates flawed theories
    That crank next door thinks he’s created cold fusion in his garage.
  10. (US, slang) Synonym of methamphetamine.
    Danny got abscesses from shooting all that bathtub crank.
  11. (rare) A twist or turn in speech; word play consisting in a change of the form or meaning of a word.
  12. (obsolete) A sick person; an invalid.
  13. (slang) The penis.
    Synonyms: cock, dick; see also Thesaurus:penis
    • 2013, Reggie Chesterfield, Scoundrel, page 57:
      It was going to be hard not to blow with a girl like her sucking on his crank.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


crank (third-person singular simple present cranks, present participle cranking, simple past and past participle cranked or (dialectal) crunk)

  1. (transitive) To turn by means of a crank.
    Motorists had to crank their engine by hand.
  2. (intransitive) To turn a crank.
    He's been cranking all day and yet it refuses to crank.
  3. (intransitive, of a crank or similar) To turn.
    He's been cranking all day and yet it refuses to crank.
  4. (transitive) To cause to spin via other means, as though turned by a crank.
    I turn the key and crank the engine; yet it doesn't turn over
    Crank it up!
  5. (intransitive) To act in a cranky manner; to behave unreasonably and irritably, especially through complaining.
    Quit cranking about your spilt milk!
  6. (intransitive) To be running at a high level of output or effort.
    By one hour into the shift, the boys were really cranking.
    • 2009, Carol Baroudi, Jeffrey Hill, Arnold Reinhold, Green IT For Dummies:
      Better computers use variable speed fans so they run at top speed only when the computer is really cranking
    • 2009, Mike Edison, I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, ...:
      When we were playing at the top of our ability and really cranking, the whole thing could sound like a jet plane taking off in the club.
    • 2011, P. L. Nelson, The Incessant Voice of War: The Black Rose Conspiracies, page 64:
      expected that the NVA and VC were in a position to dish out what they're dishing out, and the rumor mill is really cranking overtime.
  7. (intransitive, dated) To run with a winding course; to double; to crook; to wind and turn.


Derived terms[edit]

terms derived from "crank" (all parts of speech)

Further reading[edit]