Printable Version
Pronunciation: krinj Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. Shrink away in fear or humbly, servilely. 2. To recoil from inclimate weather, embarrassment, or disgust.

Notes: Today's word comes with some interesting derivations. Someone who cringes a lot is, of course, a cringer. However, if you wish a slightly more pejorative term, you may use cringeling. The only adjective for this verb is a compound adjective, cringeworthy "causing someone to cringe".

In Play: We cringe at bad things or the very thought of them: "I cringe at the thought of the new policy of 'right-sizing'. That usually means cutting jobs." We can also cringe at weather phenomena: "As Henrietta walked out of the house, she cringed at the cold fall weather and went back into the house for a jacket."

Word History: Today's Good Word is the reflex of Old English cringan "to give way, bend", by way of Middle English crengan "to bow servilely". The verb was originally transitive, meaning "to cause to cringe". The intransitive use probably arose in early Middle English. This word evolved from Proto-Germanic krank- "bend, curl up", source also of Dutch kring "circle, circuit, ring" and German krank "sick". Since cranks are bent, we aren't surprised that English crank, in both senses of the word, comes from the same source. An old car crank is physically bent, while the human crank is psychologically bent.

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!