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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 *ghreb(h)-, *ghrab(h)- (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. (transitive, figuratively) Normally used with with: to ponder and intensely evaluate a problem.
    to grapple with one's conscience
  3. (transitive) To fasten, as with a grapple; to fix; to join indissolubly.
    • Hakluyt
      The gallies were grappled to the Centurion.
    • Shakespeare
      Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.
  4. (intransitive) To use a grapple.
  5. (intransitive) To wrestle or tussle.


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 Old Frankish *krappō (hook), from Proto-Germanic *krappô, *krappą (hook), from Proto-Indo-European *grep- (hook), *gremb- (crooked, uneven), from Proto-Indo-European *ger- (to turn, bend, twist). See further at grape.


grapple (countable and uncountable, 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).
  2. A close hand-to-hand struggle.
  3. (uncountable) The act of grappling.