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Two marines practicing grappling techniques during a United States Marine Corps Martial Arts Program

Alternative forms[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English *grapplen (to seize, lay hold of), from Old English *græpplian (to seize) (compare Old English ġegræppian (to seize)), from Proto-Germanic *graipilōną, *grabbalōną (to seize), from Proto-Indo-European *gʰrebʰ- (to take, seize, rake), equivalent to grab +‎ -le. Cognate with Dutch grabbelen (to grope, scramble, scrabble), German grabbeln (to rummage, grope about) and grapsen, grapschen (to seize, grasp, grabble). Influenced in some senses by grapple (tool with claws or hooks, noun) (see below). See further at grasp.


grapple (third-person singular simple present grapples, present participle grappling, simple past and past participle grappled)

  1. (transitive) To seize something and hold it firmly.
  2. (intransitive) To wrestle or tussle.
  3. (figuratively, with with) To ponder and intensely evaluate a problem; to struggle to deal with.
    to grapple with one's conscience
    • 1961 October, "Voyageur", “The Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway”, in Trains Illustrated, page 599, photo caption:
      Class 4 2-6-4T No. 42098 grapples with the 1 in 63 to Troutbeck at the head of the "Lakes Express".
    • 2018, Timothy R. Jennings, The Aging Brain, →ISBN, page 173:
      Fear of death is a universal human concern with which all thinking people at some point grapple.
    • 2019 November 21, Samanth Subramanian, “How our home delivery habit reshaped the world”, in The Guardian[1]:
      The frictionless appearance of a box on the doorstep is such a seductive notion. We have come to rely on it in such a brief period that we have not been able to grapple fully with the scale or the meaning of home delivery.


grapple (countable and uncountable, plural grapples)

  1. A close hand-to-hand struggle
  2. The act of grappling (uncountable)

Etymology 2[edit]

A grappling hook, which is a type of grapple
A grapple, or grapnel anchor

From Middle English *grapple, *graple, from Old French grappil (a ship's grapple) (compare Old French grappin (hook)), from Old French grape, grappe, crape (hook), of Germanic origin, from Frankish *krappō (hook), from Proto-Indo-European *grep- (hook), *gremb- (crooked, uneven), from Proto-Indo-European *ger- (to turn, bend, twist). See further at grape. Influenced in some senses by grapple (seize, verb) (see above).


grapple (plural grapples)

  1. A tool with claws or hooks which is used to catch or hold something.
    1. (nautical) A device consisting of iron claws, attached to the end of a rope, used for grasping and holding an enemy ship prior to boarding; a grappling iron.
    2. (nautical) A grapnel (type of anchor).


grapple (third-person singular simple present grapples, present participle grappling, simple past and past participle grappled)

  1. (transitive) To fasten, as with a grapple; (by extension) to fix; to join indissolubly.
    • 1589, Richard Hakluyt, The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation, [], imprinted at London: By George Bishop and Ralph Newberie, deputies to Christopher Barker, printer to the Queen's Most Excellent Majestie, OCLC 753964576:
      The gallies were grapled to the Centurion.
      c. 1599–1602, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene iii]:
      Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.
    • 1901, Leonard Charles Smithers, Oriental Tales, page 291:
      [] he provided himself with thieves' tackle and repaired to the house of the vizier in question, where he grappled a rope ladder with grappling irons to the battlements and climbed up to the roof of the palace .
    • 1914, Proceedings of the International Anti-vivisection and Animal Protection Congress, Held at Washington, D.C., December 8th to 11th, 1913, page 51:
      [Animals are hung] one by one, by a chain or rope grappled about a hind ankle, and carried, thus suspended, by an overhead device, to where the sticker stands. As rapidly as he can thrust his knife into the throat he does his work.
    • 1988, Roger Lichtenberg Simon, Raising the dead (→ISBN)
      Then I saw it — a figure swinging just above the arches, hanging from rope grappled to a lintel of an alcove fifty feet above. It had to be Gordie.
    • 1997, European Conference on Security and Detection - ECOS97, Incorporating the One Day Symposium on Technology Used for Combating Fraud: 28-30 April 1997, Venue, Commomwealth Institute, London
      These toppings impart a swaying motion to anyone climbing a rope grappled onto them, making climbing difficult. This form of topping is worthy of further study.
    • 2012, Rudy Rodriguez, Before There Was, (→ISBN), page 448:
      He had one of the ropes grappled around a ledge of a window and the other end around his ankle for safety purposes, not really expecting it to come into play. He falls at such an accelerated speed that when the rope becomes taut, it spikes ...
    • 2014, Robert E. Waters, The Wayward Eight: A Contract to Die For, Winged Hussar Publishing (→ISBN):
      The men scrambled down the three ropes that had been grappled up the shaft.
    • 2015, Chris Allen, Avenger: The Alex Morgan Interpol Spy Thriller Series (Intrepid 3), Pan (→ISBN)
      Morgan recoiled, ready to fend off another attack, but the rope grappled him back against the fence.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To climb (whether by means of a grapple and rope, or by hand, etc).
    • 2012, Allen G. Davison, The Blessed (→ISBN), page 149:
      Sam quickly geared up and placed the first hook. “I am coming as well,” Alicia announced. [] Sam planted the anchor and then grappled down as Alicia struggled to move more than a foot or shift down.
    • 2016, Cora Buhlert, St. Nicholas of Hell's Kitchen: An Silencer Holiday Story, Pegasus Pulp Publishing (→ISBN), page 27:
      In cases such as this, the Silencer usually grappled up the outside of the building. But Rumpus' tower was sixty storeys tall []
    • 2016, Russ Katz, The Principal's Daughter, Dog Ear Publishing (→ISBN), page 5:
      I made haste and grappled up the next branch, determined to get to the top first.
    • 2017, Edward W. Robertson, Freefall:
      MacAdams didn't look back to see what they were up to, just ran across the flat roof and grappled down the other side of the building.
    • 2020, Adair Hart, The Earthborn Box Set: Books 1-3, Quantum Edge Publishing (→ISBN)
      He grappled up the tree and perched himself on a branch that gave him a good view over the most of the jungle.
    • 2020, Siddhartha Thorat, Operation Hellfire (Sristhi Publishers & Distributors, →ISBN)
      As soon as the snipers had confirmed that the roof was clear, the commandos had grappled up the five stories. They had used a grappling hook called Tactical Air Initiated Launch (TAIL) System which could shoot a grappling hook using []
  3. (intransitive) To use a grapple (for example to attempt to find, hook, and raise a net or cable).
    • 1912, Sessional Papers - Legislature of the Province of Ontario, page 126:
      The following days I spent patrolling the river and grappling for nets. On Wednesday , 18th July , left Gananoque at 7 a.m.; patrolled down to Rockport, []
    • 2012, Jamal Manassah, Innovations in Telecommunications, Elsevier (→ISBN), page 427:
      After returning from the cable factory with another load of cable and repeaters, the buoy will be recovered or the rope grappled for. When the previous section is aboard the ship, transmission tests are made []
  4. (transitive, intransitive) To hook and raise with a grapple.
    • 1861, Report of the Joint Committee Appointed by the Lords of the Committee of [Great British] Privy Council for Trade and the Atlantic Telegraph Company, page 263:
      The place where the cable got jammed and broken at the bottom was two or three miles from where I grappled up the cable the first time. I do not, of course, know for certain whether rocks with crevices exist.
    • 1908, New York (State). Court of Appeals., New York Court of Appeals. Records and Briefs:
      [page 11:] Weston had just grappled the net, when we saw the light corning up the lake.
      [page 15:] A. About an hour and a half after dark with Weston I rowed across to this point where the net was set, and he, with a grappling hook, grappled up the net.