The verb is derived from Middle English crengen (“to bend in a haughty manner; to condescend”) [and other forms], from Old English *crenċan, *crenċġan, *crengan (“to cause to fall or turn”), the causative of crinċġan (“to yield; to cringe; to fall; to die, perish”), from Proto-Germanic *krangijaną (“to cause to fall; to cause to turn”), from Proto-Germanic *kringaną, *krinkaną (“to fall; to turn; to yield”) (from Proto-Indo-European *grenǵʰ- (“to turn”)) + *-janą (suffix forming causatives with the sense ‘to cause to do (the action of the verb)’ from strong verbs). The English word is cognate with Danish krænge (“to turn inside out, evert”), Dutch krengen (“to careen, veer”), Scots crenge, creenge, creinge, crienge (“to cringe; to shrug”), Swedish kränga (“to careen; to heel, lurch; to toss”), and West Frisian kringe (“to pinch; to poke; to push; to insist, urge”); and is a doublet of crinkle.
- (intransitive) To cower, flinch, recoil, shrink, or tense, as in disgust, embarrassment, or fear.
- He cringed as the bird collided with the window.
- 1684, John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. From This World to That which is to Come: The Second Part. […], London: […] Nathaniel Ponder […], OCLC 752743029; reprinted in The Pilgrim’s Progress as Originally Published by John Bunyan: Being a Fac-simile Reproduction of the First Edition, London: Elliot Stock […], 1875, OCLC 222146756, page 69:
- [W]hen they were come up to the place where the Lions were, the Boys that went before, were glad to cringe behind, for they were afraid of the Lions, ſo they ſtept back and went behind.
- 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “A Bosom Friend”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, OCLC 57395299, page 55:
- And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor.
- 1860, [John B. Newman], “The Combat”, in Wa-Wa-Wanda: A Legend of Old Orange, New York, N.Y.: Rudd & Carleton, […], OCLC 6186322, page 28:
- Here the angel ceased, and frowning, / Hurled his heavy gauntlet at him; / Hurled, as best he could, the creature, / Cringing as the Serpent cringeth, / Coiled, and with his crest uplifted; / And then prone upon his belly, / Crawled away upon his belly, [...]
- 1917 April, Jack London, chapter VIII, in Jerry of the Islands, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, OCLC 775437, page 115:
- But he [Jerry, a dog] made no whimper. Nor did he wince or cringe to the blows. He bored straight in, striving, without avoiding a blow, to beat and meet the blow with his teeth.
- (intransitive, figuratively) To experience an inward feeling of disgust, embarrassment, or fear; (by extension) to feel very embarrassed.
- (intransitive) To bow or crouch in servility.
- 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Loue of Learning; or Ouer-much Study. With a Digression of the Misery of Schollers, and Why the Muses are Melancholy.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970, partition 1, section 2, member 3, subsection 15, page 113:
- [I]f they keepe their wits, yet they are accompted fooles by reaſon of their carriage, becauſe they cannot ride a horſe, which euery Clowne can doe; ſalute and court a Gentlewoman, carue at table, cringe and make congies, which euery common ſwaſher can doe, [...]
- 1667, John Milton, “Book IV”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: […] [Samuel Simmons], […], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554, lines 958–961:
- And thou ſly hypocrite, who now wouldſt ſeem / Patron of liberty, who more then thou / Once fawn'd,and cring'd, and ſervilly ador'd / Heav'ns awful Monarch?
- 1902, Jack London, “Bâtard”, in The Faith of Men and Other Stories, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., published September 1904, OCLC 1161056, page 207:
- Leclère was bent on the coming of the day when Bâtard [a dog] should wilt in spirit and cringe and whimper at his feet.
- 1903 April 18, W[illiam] E[dward] Burghardt Du Bois, “Of Alexander Crummell”, in The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, Chicago, Ill.: A[lexander] C[aldwell] McClurg & Co., OCLC 728542745, page 219:
- He heard the hateful clank of their chains; he felt them cringe and grovel, and there rose within him a protest and a prophecy.
- (intransitive, figuratively) To act in an obsequious or servile manner.
- 1782, John Brown, “The Christian Journal of a Summer-day”, in The Christian Journal; or, Common Incidents, Spiritual Instructors. […], 4th edition, Edinburgh: […] Gavin Alston; [s]old by William Coke, […], OCLC 316766184, page 119:
- Here the beggar accoſts me; had I appeared as himſelf, he had aſked nothing: but now he uncovers, he cringeth, he cries for relief.
- 1851, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter XI, in The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, volume III, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, OCLC 1069526323, page 105:
- Their [the clergy's] chief business, during a quarter of a century, had been to teach the people to cringe and the prince to domineer.
- 1880 June 23, Richard F[rancis] Burton, “The Ethnology of Modern Midian”, in Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom, volume XII (Second Series), London: John Murray, […]; Trübner and Co., […], published 1882, OCLC 301010011, part I (Notices of the Tribes of Midian, [...]), page 286:
- Even to the present day the Arabs consider treating a Hutaymi as unmanly as to strike a woman. When a Felláh says to another, "Tat'hattim" (= Tat'maskin, or Tat'zallí), he means, "Thou cringest, thou makest thyself contemptible (as a Hutaymi)."
- (transitive, obsolete) To draw (a body part) close to the body; also, to distort or wrinkle (the face, etc.).
- c. 1606–1607, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene xiii], page 357, column 2:
- Whip him Fellowes, / Till like a Boy you ſee him crindge his face, / And whine aloud for mercy.
- (transitive, obsolete) To bow or crouch to (someone) in servility; to escort (someone) in a cringing manner.
- crinch (dialectal)
- (countable) A gesture or posture of cringing (recoiling or shrinking).
- He glanced with a cringe at the mess on his desk.
- (countable, figuratively) An act or disposition of servile obeisance.
- (countable, Britain, dialectal) A crick (“painful muscular cramp or spasm of some part of the body”).
- (uncountable, slang) Awkwardness or embarrassment which causes an onlooker to cringe; cringeworthiness.
- There was so much cringe in that episode!
- ^ From Charles Reade (1861) , chapter XXXIII, in The Cloister and the Hearth: A Tale of the Middle Ages, volume II (The Autobiography of a Thief), illustrated library edition, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Colonial Press Company, published c. 1900, OCLC 247436795, illustration between pages 312 and 313.
- ^ “crenǧen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
- ^ Compare “cringe, v.”, in OED Online , Oxford: Oxford University Press, November 2010; “cringe, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
- ^ “cringe, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford: Oxford University Press, November 2010; “cringe, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.