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From Middle English twikken, from Old English twiccian (to pluck), from Proto-West Germanic *twekkōn (to fasten; clamp; pinch). Related to twitch. The drug-related sense may be a blend of twitch and freak.


  • IPA(key): /twiːk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːk


tweak (third-person singular simple present tweaks, present participle tweaking, simple past and past participle tweaked)

  1. (transitive) To pinch and pull with a sudden jerk and twist; to twitch.
    to tweak the nose.
  2. (transitive, informal) To adjust slightly; to fine-tune.
    If we tweak the colors towards blue, it will look more natural.
    • 2013 August 3, “Boundary problems”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847:
      Economics is a messy discipline: too fluid to be a science, too rigorous to be an art. Perhaps it is fitting that economists’ most-used metric, gross domestic product (GDP), is a tangle too. [] But as a foundation for analysis it is highly subjective: it rests on difficult decisions about what counts as a territory, what counts as output and how to value it. Indeed, economists are still tweaking it.
    • 2017 January 14, “Thailand's new king rejects the army's proposed constitution”, in The Economist[1]:
      Yet on January 10th, only weeks before the charter was due to come into force, the prime minister said his government was tweaking the draft.
  3. (transitive) To tease, to annoy; to get under the skin of (someone, typically so as to irritate them, or by extension to enamor, frighten, etc).
    • 1995, Alida Brill, Feminist Press, A Rising Public Voice: Women in Politics Worldwide, Feminist Press at CUNY (→ISBN), page 177:
      Oh, he loved to tweak people and say things like "Hiya sweetums" to me because that was not exactly de rigueur in front of a bunch of strong feminists. He had this enormous sense of humor. I never knew what he was going to say.
    • 2003, Ann McCutchan, The Muse that Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process, Oxford University Press on Demand, →ISBN, page 92:
      I know what kinds of intervals and melodies tweak people—I know how to make people's skin crawl, how to make them shiver. I can't say it works on all listeners. There are some people, such as overly trained composers and theorists ...
    • 2006, Clarence Rockey, Carlisle Trace President of the People,, →ISBN, page 171:
      “Russia needs leadership and he knows how to tweak people.” He grinned, “He made a convert of me,” chuckling. “I wanted to lead him by the hand, now I follow him like a puppy dog.”
    • 2011, Sara J. Henry, Learning to Swim: A Novel, Crown, →ISBN, page 183:
      But I know he likes to tweak people. For a while he was giving Colette, the receptionist, a hard time, until she learned to ignore him. But that ability that lets him see how to tweak people makes him a superb salesman.
  4. (intransitive, US, slang) To abuse methamphetamines, especially crystal meth.
  5. (intransitive, US, slang) To exhibit extreme nervousness, evasiveness when confronted by authorities, compulsiveness, erratic motion, excitability, etc, due to or mimicking the symptoms of methamphetamine abuse.

Derived terms[edit]


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


tweak (plural tweaks)

  1. A sharp pinch or jerk; a twist or twitch.
    a tweak of the nose
  2. A slight adjustment or modification.
    He is running so many tweaks it is hard to remember how it looked originally.
  3. Trouble; distress; tweag.
  4. (obsolete, slang) A prostitute.
    • 1638, Richard Brathwait, Thomas Gent, editor, Barnabae Itinerarium; or Drunken Barnaby's four journeys to the north of England: In Latin and English metre[2], published 1852, page 113:
      Thence to Bautree, as I came there,
      From the bushes near the lane, there
      Rush'd a tweak in gesture flanting
      With a leering eye, and wanton:
      But my flesh I did subdue it
      Fearing lest my purse should rue it.
  5. (cryptography) An additional input to a block cipher, used in conjunction with the key to select the permutation computed by the cipher.



  • Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield, Massachusetts, G.&C. Merriam Co., 1967