The verb is derived from Middle English crengen (“to bend in a haughty manner; to condescend”) [and other forms], from Old English *crenċan, *crenċġan, *crenġan (“to cause to fall or turn”), the causative of crinċġan (“to yield; to cringe; to fall; to die, perish”), from Proto-Germanic *krangijaną (“to cause to fall; to cause to turn”), from Proto-Germanic *kringaną, *krinkaną (“to fall; to turn; to yield”) (from Proto-Indo-European *grenǵʰ- (“to turn”)) + *-janą (suffix forming causatives with the sense ‘to cause to do (the action of the verb)’ from strong verbs). The English word is cognate with Danish krænge (“to turn inside out, evert”), Dutch krengen (“to careen, veer”), Scots crenge, creenge, creinge, crienge (“to cringe; to shrug”), Swedish kränga (“to careen; to heel, lurch; to toss”), and West Frisian kringe (“to pinch; to poke; to push; to insist, urge”); and is a doublet of crinkle.
- (intransitive) To cower, flinch, recoil, shrink, or tense, as in disgust, embarrassment, or fear.
- He cringed as the bird collided with the window.
- 1684, John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. From This World to That which is to Come: The Second Part. […], London: […] Nathaniel Ponder […], →OCLC; reprinted in The Pilgrim’s Progress as Originally Published by John Bunyan: Being a Fac-simile Reproduction of the First Edition, London: Elliot Stock […], 1875, →OCLC, page 69:
- [W]hen they were come up to the place where the Lions were, the Boys that went before, were glad to cringe behind, for they were afraid of the Lions, ſo they ſtept back and went behind.
- 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “A Bosom Friend”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 55:
- And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor.
- 1860, [John B. Newman], “The Combat”, in Wa-Wa-Wanda: A Legend of Old Orange, New York, N.Y.: Rudd & Carleton, […], →OCLC, page 28:
- Here the angel ceased, and frowning, / Hurled his heavy gauntlet at him; / Hurled, as best he could, the creature, / Cringing as the Serpent cringeth, / Coiled, and with his crest uplifted; / And then prone upon his belly, / Crawled away upon his belly, [...]
- 2017 March 28, Owen Jones, “The bigots are on the march – and with ’Legs-it’ the Daily Mail bears the flag”, in Katharine Viner, editor, The Guardian, London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2022-12-01:
- Perhaps the Daily Mail should be sued for damaging people's health? Across the nation, millions have cringed so hard at its audaciously sexist front page that they've strained their face muscles, or given themselves a migraine from slamming their heads repeatedly against the nearest wall.
- (intransitive, figurative) To experience an inward feeling of disgust, embarrassment, or fear; (by extension) to feel very embarrassed.
- 2014 January 29, Matt Peckham, “8 Minutes of Ridiculously Beautiful The Elder Scrolls Online Cinematic Footage”, in Time, New York, N.Y.: Time Inc., →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2022-08-16:
- I'm cringing watching this easily Blizzard- or Square Enix-worthy new trailer for Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls Online. Not because it's bad — it's a deftly rendered slice of CGI. But it must have cost a fortune. It makes me want to say "Spend the money on knocking the game out of the park, please, not the frippery, Bethesda." But oh what frippery.
- (intransitive) To bow or crouch in servility.
- 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Loue of Learning; or Ouer-much Study. With a Digression of the Misery of Schollers, and Why the Muses are Melancholy.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, →OCLC, partition 1, section 2, member 3, subsection 15, page 113:
- [I]f they keepe their wits, yet they are accompted fooles by reaſon of their carriage, becauſe they cannot ride a horſe, which euery Clowne can doe; ſalute and court a Gentlewoman, carue at table, cringe and make congies, which euery common ſwaſher can doe, [...]
- 1667, John Milton, “Book IV”, in Paradise Lost. […], London: […] [Samuel Simmons], […], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, →OCLC, lines 958–961:
- And thou ſly hypocrite, who now wouldſt ſeem / Patron of liberty, who more then thou / Once fawn'd,and cring'd, and ſervilly ador'd / Heav'ns awful Monarch?
- 1903 April 18, W[illiam] E[dward] Burghardt Du Bois, “Of Alexander Crummell”, in The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, Chicago, Ill.: A[lexander] C[aldwell] McClurg & Co., →OCLC, page 219:
- He heard the hateful clank of their chains; he felt them cringe and grovel, and there rose within him a protest and a prophecy.
- (intransitive, figurative) To act in an obsequious or servile manner.
- 1782, John Brown, “The Christian Journal of a Summer-day”, in The Christian Journal; or, Common Incidents, Spiritual Instructors. […], 4th edition, Edinburgh: […] Gavin Alston; [s]old by William Coke, […], →OCLC, page 119:
- Here the beggar accoſts me; had I appeared as himſelf, he had aſked nothing: but now he uncovers, he cringeth, he cries for relief.
- 1851, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter XI, in The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, volume III, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, →OCLC, page 105:
- Their [the clergy's] chief business, during a quarter of a century, had been to teach the people to cringe and the prince to domineer.
- 1880 June 23, Richard F[rancis] Burton, “The Ethnology of Modern Midian”, in Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom, volume XII (Second Series), London: John Murray, […]; Trübner and Co., […], published 1882, →OCLC, part I (Notices of the Tribes of Midian, [...]), page 286:
- Even to the present day the Arabs consider treating a Hutaymi as unmanly as to strike a woman. When a Felláh says to another, "Tat'hattim" (= Tat'maskin, or Tat'zallí), he means, "Thou cringest, thou makest thyself contemptible (as a Hutaymi)."
- (transitive, obsolete) To draw (a body part) close to the body; also, to distort or wrinkle (the face, etc.).
- c. 1606–1607, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene xiii], page 357, column 2:
- Whip him Fellowes, / Till like a Boy you ſee him crindge his face, / And whine aloud for mercy.
- (transitive, obsolete) To bow or crouch to (someone) in servility; to escort (someone) in a cringing manner.
- crinch (dialectal)
- (countable) A gesture or posture of cringing (recoiling or shrinking).
- He glanced with a cringe at the mess on his desk.
- (countable, figurative) An act or disposition of servile obeisance.
- (countable, Britain, dialectal) A crick (“painful muscular cramp or spasm of some part of the body”).
- (uncountable, slang, derogatory) Things, particularly online content, which would cause an onlooker to cringe from secondhand embarrassment.
- Bro... you just posted cringe
- There was so much cringe in that episode!
- 2022 January 15, Kaitlyn Tiffany, “How Did We Get So ’Cringe’?”, in The Atlantic, Washington, D.C.: The Atlantic Monthly Group, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-05-10:
- Soon, there were Instagram compilation accounts dedicated to collecting the worst cringe, with a focus on cringe created by not-quite-random people who were performing, and failing, for thousands of their peers on TikTok.
- 2023 April 23, Taylor Lorenz, “’Am I Cringey? Yes. Do I Care? Absolutely Not’”, in Rolling Stone, New York, N.Y.: Penske Media Corporation, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-06-22:
- Many young people are also reevaluating what once constituted cringe, attributing use of the term to unacknowledged bigotry more than just a rejection of sincerity. Some niche communities, such as furries, anime fans, and fetish groups, who were once mocked on social media, have since amassed cultural power that has launched them into the mainstream.
- (slang, derogatory) Inducing awkwardness or secondhand embarrassment; lame, uncool, cringy.
- Antonym: (Internet slang) based
- Brands trying to appeal to young people with memes is the most cringe thing ever.
- 2022 November 30, Kate Lindsay, “Instagram Is Over”, in The Atlantic, Washington, D.C.: The Atlantic Monthly Group, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2023-06-18:
- Instagram may not be on its deathbed, but its transformation from cool to cringe is a sea change in the social-media universe.
- 2023 January 20, Laura Pitcher, “Why Is AI Art So Cringe?”, in VICE, archived from the original on 2023-05-02:
- We may have to face the fact that the current state of AI art is cringe because we're cringe. Really, we're no better than the unimaginative and self-obsessed people from the history books that commissioned bad portraiture.
- → Armenian: քրինջ (kʿrinǰ) (slang)
- → Bulgarian: криндж (krindž) (slang)
- → German: cringe (slang)
- → Italian: cringe (slang)
- → Polish: cringe (slang)
- → Russian: кринж (krinž) (slang)
- → Spanish: cringe (slang)
- → Ukrainian: криндж (kryndž) (slang)
- ^ “crenǧen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
- ^ Compare “cringe, v.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, November 2010; “cringe, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
- ^ “cringe, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, November 2010; “cringe, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
cringe (indeclinable, predicative only)
- (neologism, chiefly youth slang) cringe, cringeworthy
- 2020 November 12, Sinan Ilhan Dogru, Ich bin angekommen, BoD – Books on Demand, →ISBN, →OCLC, Dein bester Freund, page 23:
- Dieses Buch ist nicht nur ein Buch, sondern auch gleichzeitig dein bester Freund. Klingt bisschen cringe, ist aber trotzdem die Wahrheit.
- This book is not just a book, but also your best friend. Sounds a bit cringe, but it's the truth.
cringe m (invariable)
cringe m inan
- (slang) cringe, cringeworthiness (awkwardness or embarrassment which causes an onlooker to cringe)
- cringe at Obserwatorium językowe Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego
cringe m (plural cringe)