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[krawl] /krɔl/
verb (used without object)
to move in a prone position with the body resting on or close to the ground, as a worm or caterpillar, or on the hands and knees, as a young child.
(of plants or vines) to extend tendrils; creep.
to move or progress slowly or laboriously:
The line of cars crawled behind the slow-moving truck. The work just crawled until we got the new machines.
to behave in a remorseful, abject, or cringing manner:
Don't come crawling back to me asking for favors.
to be, or feel as if, overrun with crawling things:
The hut crawled with lizards and insects.
Ceramics. (of a glaze) to spread unevenly over the surface of a piece.
(of paint) to raise or contract because of an imperfect bond with the underlying surface.
verb (used with object)
to visit or frequent a series of (especially bars):
to crawl the neighborhood pubs.
act of crawling; a slow, crawling motion.
a slow pace or rate of progress:
Traffic slowed to a crawl.
Swimming. a stroke in a prone position, characterized by alternate overarm movements combined with the flutter kick.
Television, Movies. titles that slowly move across a screen, providing information.
1150-1200; Middle English crawlen < Old Norse krafla; compare Danish kravle to crawl, creep
Related forms
crawlingly, adverb
Can be confused
craw, crawl, crow.
1. Crawl, creep refer to methods of moving like reptiles or worms, or on all fours. They are frequently interchangeable, but crawl is used of a more prostrate movement than creep : A dog afraid of punishment crawls toward his master. Creep expresses slow progress: A child creeps before walking or running. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for crawling
  • There is nothing so wonderful as crawling into a book, getting up and walking around in it.
  • And there is that centipede crawling into her hair, along with various and sundry other big bugs crawling all over her.
  • The investigator drops the drumstick, which he then realizes is crawling with maggots.
  • Running, crawling, they tried to retreat to safety but found nowhere to go.
  • The crew slips through a narrow horizontal slot on the side of the mine, crawling headfirst down a boulder-filled slope.
  • Ants, millipedes, beetles and other crawling creatures are much more likely to wander into jaws opened wide on the forest floor.
  • The octopuses had a way of crawling out of it in the early hours of the morning to die under furniture.
  • Mechanics are crawling over its dismantled left engine.
  • He was a flat-out, knee-crawling thug with the morals of a weasel on speed.
  • The only way to proceed now was by crouching and, on uncertain ground near the edges, crawling.
British Dictionary definitions for crawling


a defect in freshly applied paint or varnish characterized by bare patches and ridging


verb (intransitive)
to move slowly, either by dragging the body along the ground or on the hands and knees
to proceed or move along very slowly or laboriously: the traffic crawled along the road
to act or behave in a servile manner; fawn; cringe
to be or feel as if overrun by something unpleasant, esp crawling creatures: the pile of refuse crawled with insects
(of insects, worms, snakes, etc) to move with the body close to the ground
to swim the crawl
a slow creeping pace or motion
(swimming) Also called Australian crawl, front crawl. a stroke in which the feet are kicked like paddles while the arms reach forward and pull back through the water
Derived Forms
crawlingly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: probably from Old Norse krafla to creep; compare Swedish kravla, Middle Low German krabbelen to crawl, Old Norse krabbicrab1


an enclosure in shallow, coastal water for fish, lobsters, etc
Word Origin
C17: from Dutch kraalkraal
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for crawling



c.1200, creulen, from a Scandinavian source, perhaps Old Norse krafla "to claw (one's way)," from the same root as crab (n.1). If there was an Old English *craflian, it has not been recorded. Related: Crawled; crawling.


1818, from crawl (v.); in the swimming sense from 1903, the stroke developed by Frederick Cavill, well-known English swimmer who emigrated to Australia and modified the standard stroke of the day after observing South Seas islanders. So called because the swimmer's motion in the water resembles crawling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for crawling


  1. A dance; hop (1920s+)
  2. Text that scrolls up the television screen, esp explaining what happened to the characters of a ''based on fact'' docudrama: And a crawl going up the screen saying she's pleaded no contest/ The use of crawl to finish a quasi-historical story (1960s+)
  1. To do the sex act with; mount •Actually used by the 1890s to mean ''mount and manage a horse'': I finally crawled Mary Jane Cummings last night (1940s+)
  2. To reprimand severely; CHEW someone OUT: ''To crawl'' meant what Second World War troops meant by ''chew out'' (WWI Army)
Related Terms

pub crawl

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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