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The verb is derived from Middle English wranglen, wrangle (to contend with (someone) in a test of strength; (figuratively) to make misleading arguments to entrap);[1] from a Middle Dutch or Middle Low German word related to Middle Dutch wrangen and Middle Low German wrangen (to cause an uproar; to struggle, wrestle) (whence Low German wrangeln (to wrangle)), related to Middle Dutch wringen (to twist; to wrest; to wring; to struggle, wrestle),[2] ultimately from Proto-Germanic *wringaną (to squeeze; to twist; to wring).

The noun is derived from the verb.[3]



wrangle (third-person singular simple present wrangles, present participle wrangling, simple past and past participle wrangled)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To convince or influence (someone) by arguing or contending.
    2. Followed by out of: to elicit (something) from a person by arguing or bargaining.
    3. (archaic, rare)
      1. To speak or write (something) in an argumentative or contentious manner.
      2. To spend (time) arguing or quarrelling.
    4. (Western US) To herd (horses or other livestock).
      1. (by extension, humorous) To manage or supervise (people).
        • 2010 October 3, Sean Gordon, “Gionta settles in, stands out”, in The Globe and Mail[2], Toronto, Ont.: The Globe and Mail Inc., →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 15 June 2021:
          Wrangling a chaotic group of five-year-olds is unnerving enough without the added stress of a famous NHLer [Brian Gionta] in the room helping lace his son’s skates.
      2. (figuratively) To gather and organize (data, facts, information, etc.), especially in a way which requires sentience rather than automated methods alone, as in data wrangling.
        Synonym: munge
    5. (obsolete)
      1. Followed by out of: to compel or drive (someone or something) away through arguing.
      2. Followed by out: to put forward arguments on (a case, a matter disagreed upon, etc.).
      3. (reflexive) To cause (oneself) grief through arguing or quarrelling.
        • 1649 April 20 (date written; Gregorian calendar), Robert Sanderson, “[Appendix, No. 5.] Letter I. Dr. Sanderson to N. N., Respecting the Relative Merits of the Presbyterians and the Independents”, in George D’Oyly, The Life of William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, [], volume II, London: John Murray, [], published 1821, →OCLC, page 442:
          When we have wrangled ourselves as long as our wits and strengths will serve us, the honest, downright sober English Protestant will be found, in the end, the man in the safest way, and by the surest line: []
  2. (intransitive)
    1. (also figuratively) To quarrel angrily and noisily; to bicker.
      Synonyms: altercate, contend; see also Thesaurus:squabble
      • 1574, John Whitgift, “Of Matters Touching Baptism. Tract XVI. [Of the Parties that are to be Baptised. Chapter iv. The First Division.]”, in John Ayre, editor, The Works of John Whitgift, D.D. [] The Third Portion, Containing the Defence of the Answer to the Admonition, against the Reply of Thomas Cartwright: Tractates XI–XXIII. Sermons, Selected Letters, &c., Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] University Press, published 1853, →OCLC, page 134:
        [A]fter his old manner, he wrangleth and quarrelleth.
      • c. 1603–1604 (date written), William Shakespeare, The Tragœdy of Othello, the Moore of Venice. [] (First Quarto), London: [] N[icholas] O[kes] for Thomas Walkley, [], published 1622, →OCLC, [Act III, scene iv], page 59:
        Mens natures vvrangle with inferior things, / Tho great ones are the obiect, []
      • 1607, Terence, “Andria”, in R[ichard] B[ernard], transl., Terence in English. Fabulæ Comici Facetissimi et Elegantissimi Poetæ Terentii Omnes Anglicæ Factæ, [] [The Comic Tales of the Most Witty and Elegant Poet Terence, All Done in English, []], 2nd edition, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] Iohannis Legat, →OCLC, act IV, scene i, page 71:
        There vvas a contention of vvordes betvvixt you & your father erevvhile. Thou vvert at vvords, or vvrangledſt vvith him right novv.
      • 1609, Thomas Dekker, “The Guls Horne-booke: []: Chap. I. The Old World, & the New Weighed Together: [].”, in Alexander B[alloch] Grosart, editor, The Non-dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker. [] (The Huth Library), volume II, London, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire: [] [Hazell, Watson, & Viney] for private circulation only, published 1885, →OCLC, page 210:
        Did man, (thinke you) come wrangling into the world, about no better matters, then all his lifetime to make priuy ſearches in Burchin lane for Whalebone doublets, or for pies of Nightingale tongues in Heliogabalus his kitchin?
      • 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene i], page 17, column 2:
        Yes, for a ſcore of Kingdomes, you ſhould vvrangle, / And I vvould call it, faire play.
      • 1615, George Sandys, “The Third Booke”, in The Relation of a Iourney Begun An: Dom: 1610. [], London: [] [Richard Field] for W. Barrett, →OCLC, page 207:
        Vpon the eighth of Aprill vve vvent aboord the Trinity, and hoiſſed ſailes for Sidon: the vvindes fauourable, and the ſeas compoſed; but anon they began to vvrangle, and vve to ſuffer.
      • 1619, Two Wise Men and All the Rest Fooles: Or A Comicall Morall, Censuring the Follies of this Age, [], [London]: [s.n.], →OCLC, act I, scene i, page 10:
        [H]ee cavelleth or vvrangleth not vvith any in this kind: therefore you are a lying fellovv.
      • [1633], George Herbert, “Humilitie”, in [Nicholas Ferrar], editor, The Temple: Sacred Poems, and Private Ejaculations, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel; and are to be sold by Francis Green, [], →OCLC; reprinted London: Elliot Stock, [], 1885, →OCLC, page 62:
        Here it is / For vvhich ye vvrangle, []
      • 1653, Iz[aak] Wa[lton], chapter XI, in The Compleat Angler or The Contemplative Man’s Recreation. Being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing, [], London: [] T. Maxey for Rich[ard] Marriot, [], →OCLC; reprinted as The Compleat Angler (Homo Ludens; 6), Nieuwkoop, South Holland, Netherlands: Miland Publishers, 1969, →ISBN, page 211:
        [T]here vve ſit, / for a bit, / till vve fiſh intangle. / [] / [W]e ſit ſtill, / vvatch our quill, / Fiſhers muſt not rangle.
      • 1716 May 15 (Gregorian calendar), Joseph Addison, “The Free-holder: No. 39. Friday, May 4. [1716.]”, in The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; [], volume IV, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], published 1721, →OCLC, pages 501–502:
        He did not knovv vvhat it vvas to vvrangle on indifferent points, to triumph in the ſuperiority of his underſtanding, or to be ſupercilious on the ſide of truth.
      • 1725, [Daniel Defoe], “Part II”, in A New Voyage Round the World, by a Course Never Sailed before. [], London: [] A[rthur] Bettesworth, []; and W. Mears, [], →OCLC, page 202:
        [T]he Captain and the other ſtaid vvith the Men, vvho vvere very unruly, and ever and anon quarrelling and vvrangling about their VVealth, vvhich, indeed, vvas very conſiderable; []
      • 1774, [Oliver] Goldsmith, Retaliation: A Poem. [], new (2nd) edition, London: [] G[eorge] Kearsly, [], →OCLC, page 9:
        VVhat ſpirits vvere his, vvhat vvit and vvhat vvhim, / Novv breaking a jeſt, and novv breaking a limb; / Novv rangling and grumbling to keep up the ball, / Novv teazing and vexing, yet laughing at all?
      • 1816, [Walter Scott], chapter XI, in The Antiquary. [], volume I, Edinburgh: [] James Ballantyne and Co. for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, →OCLC, page 255:
        [T]hey sometimes wrangle with her for an hour together under my study window, like three sea-gulls screaming and sputtering in a gale of wind.
      • 1896, [Vyasa], chapter XXXI, in [anonymous], transl., edited by Manmatha Nath Dutt, A Prose English Translation of Srimadbhagavatam, book I, Calcutta, West Bengal: [] H. C. Dass, [], →OCLC, page 150:
        Then this person influenced by desire, on account of his ever-increasing anger and sense of self-importance, wrangleth with others in order to bring destruction down upon himself.
      • 1941, Emily Carr, “Salt Water”, in Klee Wyck, centennial edition, Toronto, Ont., Vancouver, B.C.: Clarke, Irwin & Company, published 1971, →ISBN, page 83:
        I stood where land and sea wrangled ferociously over the overlap.
    2. To make harsh noises as if quarrelling.
      Synonym: jangle
    3. (generally, also figuratively) To argue, to debate; also (dated), to debate or discuss publicly, especially about a thesis at a university.
      • 1566, Iohn Martiall [i.e., John Marshall], “That the Apostles and Fathers of the Primitive Churche Blessed Them Selves, &c. The Fifth Article.”, in A Replie to M. Calfhills Blasphemous Answer Made against the Treatise of the Crosse, [], Louvain: [] Iohn Bogard [], →OCLC; reprinted as D[avid] M[cGregor] Rogers, editor, A Replie to M. Calfhills Blasphemous Answer 1566 (English Recusant Literature 1558–1640; 203), Ilkley, Yorkshire, London: The Scolar Press, 1974, →ISBN, folio 145, recto:
        Forſoothe, that vvhen he had concluded that vve muſt no liue by examples, but by lavves, he might make ſimple ſoules beleaue, that they ought not follovve the exãples of their holy forefathers, in bleſsing them ſelues, but to haue the name of the lavve in their mouthes and do nothing leſſe thã that the lavve biddeth them to doe. And to bring that to paſſe ſee hovve he vvrangleth.
      • a. 1587 (date written), Phillip Sidney [i.e., Philip Sidney], The Defence of Poesie, London: [] [Thomas Creede] for VVilliam Ponsonby, published 1595, →OCLC, signature E2, verso, →OCLC:
        VVher the Philoſophers as they think ſcorne to delight, ſo muſt they be content little to mooue; ſauing vvrangling vvhether Virtue be the chiefe or the onely good; []
      • 1628, Jos[eph] Hall, “The Newnesse of the Uniuersall Head-ship of the Bishop of Rome”, in The Olde Religion: A Treatise, wherin is Laid Downe the True State of the Difference betwixt the Reformed, and Romane Church; [], London: [] W[illiam] S[tansby] for Nathaniell Butter and Richard Hawkings, →OCLC, section I, page 174:
        But [Severin] Binius vvrangleth here; Can vve blame him vvhen the free-hold of their Great Miſtreſſe is ſo neerely touched?
      • 1657, John Bunyan, “ A Vindication of Gospel Truths Opened, According to the Scriptures; []”, in Henry Stebbing, editor, The Entire Works of John Bunyan, [], volume I, London: James S[prent] Virtue, [], published 1863, →OCLC, page 101, column 2:
        At this thou also wranglest, because I said that "every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the world was, did in the appointed time of the Father come into the world, take a body upon him, and was very man as well as very God; and did in that very body suffer what did belong to the sons of men," &c.
      • 1733, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Man. [], epistle I, London: Printed for J[ohn] Wilford, [], →OCLC, page 6, lines 57–58:
        And all this queſtion (vvrangle e'er ſo long) / Is only this, if God has plac'd him wrong?
      • 1830 June, Alfred Tennyson, “Madeline”, in Poems. [], volume I, London: Edward Moxon, [], published 1842, →OCLC, stanza 3, page 19:
        But when I turn away, / Thou, willing me to stay, / Wooest not, nor vainly wranglest; / But, looking fixedly the while, / All my bounding heart entanglest, / In a golden-netted smile; []
      • 1851, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter XIII, in The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, volume III, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, →OCLC, page 365:
        The factions of the Parliament House, awe-struck by the common danger, forgot to wrangle.


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



wrangle (countable and uncountable, plural wrangles)

  1. (countable) An angry dispute; a noisy quarrel; an altercation.
    • 1563 March 30 (Gregorian calendar), Hugh Latimer, “A Frutefull Letter of Maister Latimer Written to a Certaine Gentilman”, in John Foxe, Actes and Monuments of These Latter and Perillous Dayes, [], London: [] Iohn Day, [], →OCLC, book V, page 1350 [1419]:
      For in that you would your awardship shuld take none effect, you shew your selfe nothing inclinable to the redresse of your brothers vnright dealinge wyth an honeste poore man, which hath bene redye at your request to doo you pleasure with his things, or els he had neuer come into this wrāgle for his own goods with your brother.
    • [1732 March 6 (Gregorian calendar; date written), [Jonathan Swift], Considerations upon Two Bills Sent Down from the R[ight] H[onourable] the H[ouse] of L[ords] to the H[onoura]ble H[ouse] of C[ommons of Ireland] Relating to the Clergy of I[relan]d, London: [] A. Moore, [], published 1732, →OCLC, page 18:
      This vvould of Neceſſity, breed an infinite Number of Brangles and litigious Suits in the Spiritual Courts, and put the vvretched Paſtor at perpetual Variance vvith his vvhole Pariſh.]
    • 2020 January 31, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, quotee, “Brexit: Flag lowered at Senedd as the UK leaves the EU”, in BBC News[3], published 1 February 2020, archived from the original on 13 October 2022:
      For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come. And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss. And then of course there is a third group – perhaps the biggest – who had started to worry that the whole political wrangle would never come to an end. I understand all those feelings and our job as the government – my job – is to bring this country together now and take us forward.
  2. (uncountable) Angry disputation; noisy quarrelling.
    Wrangle and bloodshed followed thence.
  3. (obsolete, countable)
    1. A contentious argument or response.
    2. A controversy.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ wranglen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ Compare wrangle, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2022; wrangle, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ wrangle, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; wrangle, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.