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)


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 5661828, 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.
    • 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.
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 8:
      This gentleman and the guard seemed to know Sir Pitt very well, and laughed at him a great deal. They both agreed in calling him an old screw; which means a very stingy, avaricious person.
  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.
    • 2001, Bárbara Mujica, Frida: A Novel of Frida Kahlo, Overlook Press (2012), →ISBN, unnumbered page:
      “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 (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 (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.
    • 1944, W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge, Vintage International (2003), →ISBN, unnumbered page:
      “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 (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 (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 (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.
  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 termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See alsoEdit


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.
  2. (transitive, vulgar, slang) To have sexual intercourse with.
    • 1986, le Carré, John, 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.
  3. (transitive, slang) To cheat someone or ruin their chances in a game or other situation.
  4. (transitive) To practice extortion upon; to oppress by unreasonable or extortionate exactions; to put the screws on.
    • 1720, Swift, Jonathan, 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, Rogers, Thorold, Six Centuries of Work and Wages:
      It is not surprising that the landowner strove to screw his tenants.
  5. (transitive) To contort.
    • 1690, Dryden, John, Don Sebastian, act 2, scene 1:
      He screwed his face into a hardened smile.
    • 1918, Burroughs, Edgar Rice, 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, Whyatt, Chris, “Wolverhampton 2 - 1 Man Utd”, in BBC[1]:
      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. (billiard, snooker, pool) To screw back.
  8. (US, slang, dated) To examine (a student) rigidly; to subject to a severe examination.



Derived termsEdit



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