1. a metal fastener having a tapered shank with a helical thread, and topped with a slotted head, driven into wood or the like by rotating, especially by means of a screwdriver.
  2. a threaded cylindrical pin or rod with a head at one end, engaging a threaded hole and used either as a fastener or as a simple machine for applying power, as in a clamp, jack, etc.Compare bolt1(def 3).
  3. British. a tapped or threaded hole.
  4. something having a spiral form.
  5. screw propeller.
  6. Usually screws. physical or mental coercion: The terrified debtor soon felt the gangster’s screws.
  7. a single turn of a screw.
  8. a twist, turn, or twisting movement.
  9. Chiefly British.
    1. a little salt, sugar, tobacco, etc., carried in a twist of paper.
    2. Slang.a mean, old, or worn-out horse; a horse from which one can obtain no further service.
    3. Slang.a friend or employer from whom one can obtain no more money.
    4. Slang.a miser.
  10. British Informal. salary; wages.
  11. Slang. a prison guard.
  12. Slang: Vulgar.
    1. an act of coitus.
    2. a person viewed as a sexual partner.

verb (used with object)

  1. to fasten, tighten, force, press, stretch tight, etc., by or as if by means of a screw or device operated by a screw or helical threads.
  2. to operate or adjust by a screw, as a press.
  3. to attach with a screw or screws: to screw a bracket to a wall.
  4. to insert, fasten, undo, or work (a screw, bolt, nut, bottle top with a helical thread, etc.) by turning.
  5. to contort as by twisting; distort (often followed by up): Dad screwed his face into a grimace of disgust.
  6. to cause to become sufficiently strong or intense (usually followed by up): I screwed up my courage to ask for a raise.
  7. to coerce or threaten.
  8. to extract or extort.
  9. to force (a seller) to lower a price (often followed by down).
  10. Slang. to cheat or take advantage of (someone).
  11. Slang: Vulgar. to have coitus with.

verb (used without object)

  1. to turn as or like a screw.
  2. to be adapted for being connected, taken apart, opened, or closed by means of a screw or screws or parts with helical threads (usually followed by on, together, or off): This top screws on easily.
  3. to turn or move with a twisting or rotating motion.
  4. to practice extortion.
  5. Slang: Vulgar. to have coitus.

Verb Phrases

  1. screw around, Slang.
    1. to waste time in foolish or frivolous activity: If you’d stop screwing around we could get this job done.
    2. engage in promiscuous sex.
  2. screw off, Slang.
    1. to do nothing; loaf.
    2. to leave; go away.
  3. screw up, Slang.
    1. to ruin through bungling or stupidity: Somehow the engineers screwed up the entire construction project.
    2. to make a botch of something; blunder: Sorry, I guess I screwed up.
    3. to make confused, anxious, or neurotic: Losing your job can really screw you up.


  1. have a screw loose, Slang. to be eccentric or neurotic; have crazy ideas: You must have a screw loose to keep so many cats.
  2. have one’s head screwed on (right/straight). head(def 67).
  3. put the screws on, to compel by exerting pressure on; use coercion on; force: They kept putting the screws on him for more money.


  1. a device used for fastening materials together, consisting of a threaded and usually tapered shank that has a slotted head by which it may be rotated so as to cut its own thread as it bores through the material
  2. Also called: screw-bolt a threaded cylindrical rod that engages with a similarly threaded cylindrical hole; bolt
  3. a thread in a cylindrical hole corresponding with that on the bolt or screw with which it is designed to engage
  4. anything resembling a screw in shape or spiral form
  5. a twisting movement of or resembling that of a screw
  6. Also called: screw-back billiards snooker
    1. a stroke in which the cue ball recoils or moves backward after striking the object ball, made by striking the cue ball below its centre
    2. the motion resulting from this stroke
  7. another name for propeller (def. 1)
  8. slang a prison guard
  9. British slang salary, wages, or earnings
  10. British a small amount of salt, tobacco, etc, in a twist of paper
  11. slang a person who is mean with money
  12. slang an old, unsound, or worthless horse
  13. (often plural) slang force or compulsion (esp in the phrase put the screws on)
  14. slang sexual intercourse
  15. have a screw loose informal to be insane
  16. turn the screw or tighten the screw slang to increase the pressure


  1. (tr) to rotate (a screw or bolt) so as to drive it into or draw it out of a material
  2. (tr) to cut a screw thread in (a rod or hole) with a tap or die or on a lathe
  3. to turn or cause to turn in the manner of a screw
  4. (tr) to attach or fasten with a screw or screws
  5. (tr) informal to take advantage of; cheat
  6. (tr often foll by up) to distort or contorthe screwed his face into a scowl
  7. Also: screw back to impart a screw to (a ball)
  8. (tr, often foll by from or out of) to coerce or force out of; extort
  9. slang to have sexual intercourse (with)
  10. (tr) slang to burgle
  11. have one’s head screwed on or have one’s head screwed on the right way informal to be wise or sensible

n.“cylinder of wood or metal with a spiral ridge round it; hole in which a screw turns,” c.1400, from Middle French escroue “nut, cylindrical socket, screwhole,” of uncertain etymology; not found in other Romanic languages. Perhaps via Gallo-Romance *scroba or West Germanic *scruva from Vulgar Latin scrobis “screw-head groove,” in classical Latin “ditch, trench,” also “vagina” (Diez, though OED finds this “phonologically impossible”). Kluge, Watkins and others trace it to Latin scrofa “breeding sow,” perhaps based on the shape of a pig’s penis (cf. Portuguese porca, Spanish perca “a female screw,” from Latin porca “sow”). Latin scrofa is literally “digger, rooter,” from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) “to cut” (see shear (v.)). A group of apparently cognate Germanic words (Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schruve, Dutch schroef, German Schraube, Swedish skrufva “screw”) are said to be French loan-words. Sense of “means of pressure or coercion” is from 1640s, probably in reference to instruments of torture (e.g. thumbscrews). Meaning “prison guard, warden” is 1812 in underworld slang, originally in reference to the key they carried (screw as slang for “key” attested from 1795). Slang meaning “an act of copulation” is recorded from 1929 (meaning “a prostitute” is attested from 1725). To have a screw loose “have a dangerous (usually mental) weakness” is recorded from 1810. v.“to twist (something) like a screw,” 1590s, from screw (n.). From 1610s as “to attach with a screw.” Slang meaning “to copulate” dates from at least 1725, originally usually of the action of the male, on the notion of driving a screw into something. Meaning “defraud, cheat” is from 1900. First recorded 1949 in exclamations as a euphemism. Related: Screwed; screwing. To screw up “blunder” is recorded from 1942. Screwed up originally was figurative for “tuned to a high or precise pitch” (1907), an image from the pegs of stringed instruments. Meaning “confused, muddled” attested from 1943. Expression to have (one’s) head screwed on the right (or wrong) way is from 1821. In addition to the idioms beginning with screw

  • screw around
  • screw loose
  • screw someone out of
  • screw up
  • screw up one’s courage
  • screw you
  • also see:

  • have a screw loose
  • pluck (screw) up one’s courage
  • tighten the screws
  • turn up the heat (put the screws on)
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