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Various screws.
Ship screw.


From Middle English screw, scrue (screw); apparently, despite the difference in meaning, from Old French escroue (nut, cylindrical socket, screwhole), from Latin scrōfa (female pig) through comparison with the corkscrew shape of a pig's penis. There is also the Old French escruve (screw), from Old Dutch *scrūva ("screw"; whence Middle Dutch schruyve (screw)), which probably influenced or conflated with the aforementioned, resulting in the Middle English word.


  • IPA(key): /skɹuː/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uː


screw (plural screws)

  1. A device that has a helical function.
    1. A simple machine, a helical inclined plane.
    2. A (usually) metal fastener consisting of a partially or completely threaded shank, sometimes with a threaded point, and a head used to both hold the top material and to drive the screw either directly into a soft material or into a prepared hole.
    3. (nautical) A ship's propeller.
      • 1915, G[eorge] A. Birmingham [pseudonym; James Owen Hannay], chapter I, in Gossamer, New York, N.Y.: George H. Doran Company, →OCLC, page 01:
        It is never possible to settle down to the ordinary routine of life at sea until the screw begins to revolve. There is an hour or two, after the passengers have embarked, which is disquieting and fussy.
    4. An Archimedes screw.
    5. A steam vessel propelled by a screw instead of wheels.
  2. The motion of screwing something; a turn or twist to one side.
  3. (slang, derogatory) A prison guard.
    • 1984 April 21, Albert Jones, “White Lovers”, in Gay Community News, page 4:
      The screws moved her out of my cell because they could not stand the idea of a black and white white being together.
    • 1994, Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption (film):
      And that's how it came to pass that on the second-to-last day of the job, the convict crew that tarred the plate factory roof in the spring of forty-nine wound up sitting in a row at ten o'clock in the morning drinking icy cold, Bohemia-style beer, courtesy of the hardest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank State Prison.
    • 2000, Reginald Kray, A Way of Life:
      They both wedged up in his cell and refused to come out. They were hurling abuse at the screws on the other side of the door. As a result they were both shipped out to another jail the following day.
  4. (slang, derogatory) An extortioner; a sharp bargainer; a skinflint.
  5. (US, slang, dated) An instructor who examines with great or unnecessary severity; also, a searching or strict examination of a student by an instructor.
  6. (vulgar, slang) Sexual intercourse; the act of screwing.
    • 1983, Gordon Gano (lyrics and music), “Add It Up”, in Violent Femmes, performed by Violent Femmes:
      Why can't I get just one screw? / Believe me, I'd know what to do / But something won't let me make love to you
    • 2001, Bárbara Mujica, Frida: A Novel of Frida Kahlo[1], Overlook Press, published 2012, →ISBN:
      “Not for God's sake, for Papá's sake. He's the one who gave Mami a good screw, and then you popped out. Or did you think you were a child of the Immaculate Conception, like the Baby Jesus?
    • 2007, Barry Calvert, Swingers 1, Matador, published 2007, →ISBN, page 85:
      A few couples would let selected doggers join in, with the lucky ones managing to get a screw.
    • 2009, Kimberly Kaye Terry, The Sweet Spot, Aphrodisia Books, published 2009, →ISBN, page 28:
      As she sucked the nicotine deeply into her lungs, she closed her eyes and leaned back against the headboard, enjoying the pleasurable buzz that the combination of a good screw—well, a decent screw—coupled with the nicotine gave.
  7. (vulgar, slang) A casual sexual partner.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:casual sexual partner
    • 1944, W[illiam] Somerset Maugham, chapter 5, in The Razor’s Edge [], 1st American edition, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Co., →OCLC, section ii, page 211:
      If I don't go back to my boy friend he'll be as mad as hell. He's a sulky brute, but Christ, he's a good screw.
    • 1990, Susan Lewis, Stolen Beginnings, HarperPaperbacks, published 1992, →ISBN, page 122:
      "Swear it!" Kathleen screamed. "Let her know that she's just another screw. Because, darling, that's all you are. So go on, tell her!"
    • 1993, William Gill, Fortune's Child, HarperCollins Canada, published 1994, →ISBN, page 42:
      She was just a girl, like any of the girls he had had so easily, just another screw.
    • 2009, Sam Moffie, The Book of Eli, Mill City Press, published 2009, →ISBN, page 6:
      Mary was Eli's favorite screw because she was clean, pretty, a good mother, funny, and alway was able to make herself available for their twice a week fucks as easily as he was.
  8. (slang) Salary, wages.
    • 1887, Edith Nesbit, Man-Size in Marble:
      “I’ll speak to Mrs. Dorman when she comes back, and see if I can’t come to terms with her,” I said. “Perhaps she wants a rise in her screw. It will be all right. Let’s walk up to the church.”
    • 1888, Rudyard Kipling, In the Pride of His Youth:
      A certain amount of "screw" is as necessary for a man as for a billiard-ball.
  9. (billiards) Backspin.
  10. (slang) A small packet of tobacco.
    • 1847, Henry Mayhew, The Greatest Plague of Life:
      3 Screws and a Pipe
  11. (dated) An old, worn-out, unsound and worthless horse.
  12. (mathematics) A straight line in space with which a definite linear magnitude termed the pitch is associated. It is used to express the displacement of a rigid body, which may always be made to consist of a rotation about an axis combined with a translation parallel to that axis.
  13. An amphipod crustacean.
    the skeleton screw (Caprella)
    the sand screw
  14. (informal, in the plural, with "the") Rheumatism.
    • 2000, Jacqueline Simpson, Stephen Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore:
      She didn't like my mother, so she made a wax doll and stuck thorns into its legs, and my mother had the screws (rheumatism) in her legs ever since.

Derived terms[edit]

Terms derived from screw (noun)


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

See also[edit]


screw (third-person singular simple present screws, present participle screwing, simple past and past participle screwed)

  1. (transitive) To connect or assemble pieces using a screw.
    Synonyms: screw up; see also Thesaurus:join
  2. (transitive, intransitive, vulgar, slang) To have sexual intercourse with.
    Synonyms: (vulgar, slang) fuck, (Australia) root, (British) shag; see also Thesaurus:copulate with
    • 1890, Albert G. Porter, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Judicature of the State of Indiana[2]:
      Somebody told me [...] that she [...] acknowledged to him [...] that Nero [...] had screwed her (meaning had carnal intercourse with plaintiff) up stairs the night before.
      From Rodebaugh v. Hollingsworth, May, 1855.
    • 1986, John le Carré, A Perfect Spy:
      He had contemplated Pym in all the stages he had grown up with him, drunk with him and worked with him, including a night in Berlin he had totally forgotten until now when they had ended up screwing a couple of army nurses in adjoining rooms.
    • 2014, The Visitors[3]:
      "Maybe they weren't screwing, my dear. They were just hanging out, you know." "They were screwing, my dear."
  3. (transitive, slang) To cheat someone or ruin their chances in a game or other situation.
    Synonyms: (vulgar, slang) fuck, screw over
  4. (transitive) To extort or practice extortion upon; to oppress by unreasonable or extortionate exactions; to put the screws on.
    • 1720, Jonathan Swift, A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture:
      [] our country landlords, by unmeasurable screwing and racking their tenants, have already reduced the miserable people to a worse condition than the peasants in France, or the vassals in Germany and Poland []
    • 1884, Thorold Rogers, Six Centuries of Work and Wages:
      It is not surprising that the landowner strove to screw his tenants.
  5. (transitive) To contort.
    Synonyms: twist, writhe
    • 1690, John Dryden, Don Sebastian, act 2, scene 1:
      He screwed his face into a hardened smile.
    • 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, chapter V, in The Land That Time Forgot:
      I had been calling Nobs in the meantime and was about to set out in search of him, fearing, to tell the truth, to do so lest I find him mangled and dead among the trees of the acacia grove, when he suddenly emerged from among the boles, his ears flattened, his tail between his legs and his body screwed into a suppliant S. He was unharmed except for minor bruises; but he was the most chastened dog I have ever seen.
  6. (soccer, transitive) To miskick (a ball) by hitting it with the wrong part of the foot.
    • 2011 February 5, Chris Whyatt, “Wolverhampton 2 - 1 Man Utd”, in BBC[4]:
      The visitors could have added an instant second, but Rooney screwed an ugly attempt high into Hennessey's arms after Berbatov cleverly found the unmarked England striker.
  7. (billiards, snooker, pool) To screw back.
  8. (US, slang, dated) To examine (a student) rigidly; to subject to a severe examination.
  9. (intransitive, US, slang, often imperative, dated) To leave; to go away; to scram. [from early to mid 20th c.]
    • c. 2009, Louis CK, Shit Ass Pet Fuckers[5]:
      If you don't like it, fuckin' screw! It's Shit Ass Pet Fuckers. That's the way it's going to be.
  10. (colloquial, transitive, often derogatory) Used to express great displeasure with, or contemptuous dismissal of, someone or something.
    Synonyms: bugger, eff, to hell with, screw
    Screw those jerks, and screw their stupid rules!
  11. (colloquial, transitive) To give up on, to abandon, delay, to not think about someone or something.
    Synonyms: (vulgar, slang) fuck, forget, (Australia) sack
    Screw the homework for now.
    Screw him, let's run.


Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edn., s.v. "screw".
  2. ^ A new English dictionary on historical principles, Vol. 8, "screw"