Definition of curl in English:



  • 1Form or cause to form into a curved or spiral shape:

    [no object] ‘her fingers curled round the microphone’
    ‘a slice of ham had begun to curl up at the edges’
    [with object] ‘she used to curl her hair with rags’
    • ‘When he didn't move she curled her hand around the solid shoulder and shook him gently.’
    • ‘Instead, her arms circled his neck, her fingers curling into his hair.’
    • ‘They are oddly shaped, curled in at five points on each dried leaf.’
    • ‘You've known him for less than a week, and he's already got you curled round his little finger!’
    • ‘Laughing, she walks over to the table and lightly flicks her fingers through Ian's curling brown hair.’
    • ‘His hand moved to curl fondly around my waist as we walked down the hall.’
    • ‘Before long she'd nod off, book splayed out the armrest, fingers still curled around the mug.’
    • ‘She had her jacket slung over her shoulder, her finger curled through the loop in a way that was enticing despite being mundane.’
    • ‘He bent downward, and curled his fingers into one large fist.’
    • ‘Her hair was curled with little corkscrews coming down, and a loose bun full of curls, with a few extra sparkly hair clips in it.’
    • ‘He wrapped his fingers in her long curling hair and rested his forehead against hers.’
    • ‘Lightly pan-fry bologna slice (with rind) until it curls into a bowl shape.’
    • ‘Her fingers curled tightly into his hair, almost pulling it in her frustration.’
    • ‘Allow the pieces to cool before moving them to prevent curling and crimping.’
    • ‘He looks sun-tanned and well, clearly enjoying his cup of tea as he daintily curls his fingers round the handle.’
    • ‘His tiny pink fingers and toes were curled tightly, and his eyes were shut, but, to his mother, he was perfect.’
    • ‘He untied something from his neck and placed it in her hand, and curled her fingers round it.’
    • ‘Her straight hair was curled slightly, curving below her shoulders.’
    • ‘He reached out and touched her face gently, a windblown strand of hair curling around his finger.’
    • ‘She was deep in conversation with the girl sitting by her, bent forward, her hair curling round her face, her eyes wide.’
    wind, twine, entwine, wrap
    crimp, wave, tong
    go curly, go frizzy, frizz out, frizzle, crinkle
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    1. 1.1curl up[no object] Sit or lie with the knees drawn up:
      ‘she curled up and went to sleep’
      • ‘I curled up in a corner and buried my head in my knees and started sobbing as subtly as I could.’
      • ‘He curls up in his seat, knees up to his shoulders, his arms hugging himself tight.’
      • ‘She moved slowly out of her curled up position and painfully stretched out her limbs.’
      • ‘He could not make up his mind if he wanted to snuggle or just curl up at the foot of the bed.’
      • ‘At that moment the princess flipped herself over to curl up into a tighter position.’
      • ‘A friendly dog runs up to us and curls up in my husband's lap.’
      • ‘Me, I would curl up in a fetal position under the table and wait for someone to rescue me.’
      • ‘Madeleine curled up into a ball on the floor, drawing her knees tightly to her chest and hugging them.’
      • ‘He curled up on the seat beside me, fixing me with his daunting blue-gold eyes.’
      • ‘I threw him a dirty look and turned back around, curling up in the seat again.’
      • ‘In the meantime young people continue to be shut in rooms to slowly curl up and die.’
      • ‘If you have a right angled desk with screens behind it, then curl up underneath it during your break.’
      • ‘She sat down on her comfy couch, curling up in a ball.’
      • ‘As she curls up in her chair like a Siamese, I feel my hips press up against the arm rests and wonder where she's finding all that extra space to pretzel her body into feline folds.’
      • ‘As the dog curls up beside me and another shower of sparks soars into the night I reflect that this is a minor complaint.’
      • ‘I close my eyes again, drawing my knees up to my chest and curling up in a defensive ball.’
      • ‘He would curl up into the foetal position and weep at the mention of his ex-girlfriend's name.’
      • ‘But I just feel like nailing my door shut and curling up in a ball in the corner of my room.’
      • ‘After rustling up her favourite linguine with garlic oil and pancetta, Nigella changes into her dressing gown and curls up in bed, alone except for the pasta, to eat and watch telly in silence.’
      • ‘And when she is done, she curls up on the couch and smiles to herself.’
      nestle, snuggle, cuddle
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    2. 1.2 Move or cause to move in a spiral or curved course:
      [no object, with adverbial of direction] ‘a wisp of smoke curling across the sky’
      • ‘Smoke rose in curling tendrils up to the ceiling that was starting to stain with the toxic fumes.’
      • ‘It curls towards goal and he plucks it confidently from the air.’
      • ‘The assistant referee signalled that the cross had curled out of play before hitting the woodwork.’
      • ‘Sweet-smelling fingers of smoke twisted and curled into the air, filling the sanctuary with a primordial mist.’
      • ‘He takes a shot from the dead ball line, but it curls behind the goal.’
      • ‘I just curled around him and pulled up at the free throw line.’
      • ‘I glanced up at the sky, and indeed, smoke was curling lazily from one of three chimneys.’
      • ‘Your wings can also curl around the post players or even go baseline and exchange places with each other.’
      • ‘She began to fiddle with it nervously, turning it over and over in her hands, the cigarette bobbing up and down with smoke curling across her hands.’
      • ‘He took precise aim with a lob from the corner of the box but it refused to curl in and drifted harmlessly across goal.’
      • ‘I felt my stomach backflip as the smoke curled around me.’
      • ‘Smoke curled inside itself, pushing out through slitted windows.’
      • ‘Orthodox priests held a memorial service, and the blue smoke of incense smoke curled in the hot summer air.’
      • ‘Doc turned us on a straight line for the wagon train and they curled off their course to meet us.’
      • ‘Two men sit in a small, claustrophobic room, cigarette smoke curling through the soft light.’
      • ‘He eyed the smoke curling out of the oven and was in a state of semi-panic and confusion.’
      • ‘He just tried another curler, but it was too curly and it curled away from goal.’
      • ‘But with two minutes remaining it was he who managed to grab the winner when he curled in a shot from 20 yards.’
      • ‘Her smoke curled toward the light over the table where a moth was bumping against the bulb.’
      • ‘The smoke from his pipe curled into the air in lazy circles.’
      spiral, coil, wreathe, twirl, swirl, furl
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    3. 1.3 (with reference to one's mouth or upper lip) raise or cause to raise slightly on one side as an expression of contempt or disapproval:
      [no object] ‘Maria saw his lip curl sardonically’
      • ‘One side of his mouth curled upward as I assumed that he recognized me.’
      • ‘The sides of his lips curled upwards ever so slightly that if you had even blinked for a millisecond you would have missed it.’
      • ‘I rolled my eyes and curled my upper lip in feigned revulsion.’
      • ‘Slowly, the side of her mouth curled into a smile, and the silence was broken by a quiet snicker.’
      • ‘He scowled, his upper lip curling so slightly that his lips did not part.’
      • ‘Her upper lip curled slightly in a faint scowl as she gathered the parchment up in her hand and broke the serpent seal with her fingernail.’
      • ‘He kept his voice neutral, but the left side of his upper lip curled slightly in disapproval.’
      • ‘His mouth curled slightly as he looked her over, and Lily sighed and looked away.’
      • ‘A look of disgust that had never been known to grace Michael's face settled heavily over his features, his upper lip curling as he surveyed her.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, after uttering that word, most roll their eyes or curl their upper lip in mild disgust and just plain lose interest in the conversation.’
      • ‘When it curled its upper lip in a snarl, long fangs peeked out between its other straight teeth.’
      • ‘The old man was staring at him, upper lip curled back from his teeth.’
      • ‘The husband's lips were curled slightly, forming a meager smile; the wife was wearing no smile at all.’
      • ‘It stood in front of me and it curled its upper lip, exposing one canine and incisor.’
      • ‘I turned to her, slightly entertained at the annoyance curling her upper lip.’
      • ‘Doug's lips curl in contempt towards his brother-in-law.’
      • ‘When Sean was safely out of earshot, he allowed his upper lip to curl into the slightest sneer.’
      • ‘His eyes darkened, and the right side of his lips curled slightly.’
      • ‘My lip curled in contempt as I noticed the thing clinging to his arm.’
      • ‘I had my nose curled slightly and my mouth opened in surprise as I looked from one to the other.’
  • 2[with object] (in weight training) lift (a weight) using only the hands, wrists, and forearms:

    ‘slowly curl the barbell to shoulder height’
    • ‘You're curling twice as much weight, so you have to work harder, whereas alternate curls allow more rest for each arm between reps.’
    • ‘With shoulders back and elbows at your sides, curl the weights as you turn your palms up.’
    • ‘Hold that breath as you curl both weights toward your shoulders, exhaling slowly as you finish the concentric part of the rep.’
    • ‘The boss still worked his muscles, lifting and curling with special weights that he bought when they still made such things.’
    • ‘For instance, rather than keeping your torso rigid during barbell curls, you can sway backward and then forward as you curl the weight upward.’
    • ‘Grasp the handles of the machine and inhale as you flex the knees and slowly curl the weights until the pads touch the buttocks.’
    • ‘With the supinating curl, you start with your hands in the hammer position and turn your palms up as you curl the weight.’
    • ‘Regardless of which isolation exercise I select, the plan is to curl the weight slowly and to go for a full muscular contraction.’
    • ‘With the bar down in front of my thighs, I curl the weight up while keeping my upper arms in place.’
    • ‘Tighten your midsection, take a deep breath, curl both weights toward your shoulders and exhale at the top.’
    • ‘Keeping your upper arm pressed against your thigh, curl the weight up and toward your shoulder.’
    • ‘Then curl the barbell up and let it slowly drop back down until your hands are hanging.’
    • ‘My intent is to rely on biceps contractions alone to curl the heaviest weight possible, reaching failure at six reps or, at the most, eight.’
    • ‘And yet, how many times have you seen a guy curling a barbell that's so heavy, he's throwing it up with his back and taking the work away from his arms?’
    • ‘Slowly curl the weights up to your shoulders, tightening the bicep muscle as you go.’
    • ‘Just before you completely lower the weight, begin curling with the other arm.’
    • ‘With elbows fixed in position, she contracts her biceps to curl the weights toward her shoulders.’
    • ‘He flexes his elbows in earnest to begin curling the weight at a moderate pace, under control.’
    • ‘For example, if you did the barbell curl and it took you two seconds to curl the weight up and another two seconds to lower it, that's four seconds of tension per rep.’
    • ‘Make sure your biceps contraction alone curls the weight all the way to the top.’
  • 3[no object] Play at the game of curling:

    ‘during the severe spell in 1740, men curled on the pond’
    • ‘She began curling in high school and finished second at the Wisconsin state high school championships.’
    • ‘He started curling while attending college in Minnesota, but has given up on the sport since.’


  • 1Something in the shape of a spiral or coil, especially a lock of hair:

    ‘her blonde hair was a mass of tangled curls’
    ‘a curl of blue smoke’
    • ‘Her auburn hair fell down about her shoulders, the ends styled in spiral curls.’
    • ‘Her hair was damp too, making her usually straight hair coil up in small curls.’
    • ‘He was smaller than the man at the door, his hair tied back in a tangle of dark curls.’
    • ‘Shower and shampoo has left my hair in an uncontrollable mass of curls and tangles.’
    • ‘She has a mass of black curls, a long, still stare, a restless intellect.’
    • ‘The holsters have a lip curl so the cylinder will not hang up when re-holstering.’
    • ‘You won't see his receivers running a lot of curls, running to the sideline or catching the ball from a dead stop.’
    • ‘Beautiful blonde locks and bouncy curls framed the delicately shaped face.’
    • ‘The easiest way to shape thin chocolate curls is to shave them directly from a block of chocolate, using a swivel vegetable peeler or sharp knife.’
    • ‘The curl of smoke twisted through the tall grass as the hunter stared over the hill tops.’
    • ‘After a year of curls, hair is heading for a pared-down look.’
    • ‘Pins, clips, combs, and feathers captured their graying hair into elaborate curls and twists.’
    • ‘Its face, beneath a shaggy fall of raven black curls, was delicately shaped and as stark as bone, with no hint of rosy cheek or kind intention.’
    • ‘Her hair was in a French twist with a few curls framing her face.’
    • ‘The vegetables will open up or set in wonderful stars, curls or palm-tree shapes.’
    • ‘Her eyes followed the winding twists and the curls of smoke as the sky broke open to the ocean beneath.’
    • ‘My hair was in spiral curls that hung loosely around my face, forming a dark shadow around my glowing face.’
    • ‘She then called for her maid to do her hair, which ended up in elaborate curls, twisted and pinned around a pearl and sapphire tiara.’
    • ‘Fear, greed and sexual obsession tangle in a plot that has more twists than a curl of smoke traveling through a double helix.’
    • ‘She had desperately tried to tame her hair by running a comb through her tangle of curls, but with no avail.’
    ringlet, corkscrew, coil, kink, wave
    spiral, coil, wreath, twirl, swirl, furl, twist, corkscrew, curlicue, whorl, helix, gyre
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    1. 1.1 A curling movement:
      ‘the sneering curl of his lip’
      • ‘Aimee could spot the vindictive curl on his lips, the hand holding the cup of fruit juice rising and before she knew it, the contents of the cups were emptied all over her.’
      • ‘However, there was an angry curl to his lips as he awaited the Old Man's explanation.’
      • ‘In a minute, I am onto the coast road and following its curl as it descends toward probably the most famous beach in the world.’
      • ‘Nothing wrong with that, but a slight tweak in hand position transforms an ordinary curl into a hammer curl.’
      • ‘He, apparently ruthless in his ambition, gave up on mainstream politics with barely a curl of those famous lips.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, while we might be prepared to complain about deficiencies in our own immediate locality, when we see a mess further afield we tend to pass it by with a curl of the lip.’
      • ‘She averted her eyes, shifting her gaze to her feet in an attempt to avoid the mischievous curl of his lips.’
      • ‘His eyes speak volumes and a sneering curl of his lip or raising of the brow conveys as much as a page of dialogue or explanation.’
      • ‘He fought to control the instinctive curl of his lip.’
      • ‘She tried to ignore her, but she caught the quick curl of lips and grinned.’
      • ‘I could tell he had adopted an unusual air by the strange curl on his beautiful lips.’
      • ‘She looks at him with a delighted curl to her red lips.’
      • ‘Worse than that: they evoke a contemptuous curl of the lip.’
      • ‘With a roll of my eyes and a curl of my lip, I took out my notebook and started sketching.’
      • ‘I read over my recent entries with a curl to my lip; I'm not at my sparkling best in winter.’
      • ‘That bent and stooped body became, for a time, capable of conveying the subtlest of messages in an arch of an eyebrow, the curl of a lip.’
      • ‘He inhabits the champ from the first curl of his lip and half-lidded gaze.’
      • ‘She easily captures this grasping floozy, with just a curl of her bee-stung lips and her eyes alternately vacant and cunning.’
      • ‘With a squint of eye, a curl of lip, a twist of neck, and a body slanguage equally at home in boardrooms and barrooms, she embodies everyone she sees.’
    2. 1.2 (with reference to a person's hair) a state or condition of being curled:
      ‘your hair has a natural curl’
      [mass noun] ‘large perm rods give volume and control rather than lots of curl’
      • ‘It is then treated with an oxidizing solution that reforms protein bonds and causes the hair to maintain a curl.’
      • ‘Because hair is porous, it absorbs moisture, which activates curl.’
      • ‘Use a curling iron to add a very soft curl at the bottom of the lock of hair.’
      • ‘She released the lock of dark brown hair, letting it fall into a graceful spiral curl.’
      • ‘Finally, for you curly heads, don't towel dry your hair because it'll break up your natural curl, creating lackluster, frizzy hair.’
      • ‘He had short apricot-colored hair with a small hint of curl, his eyes shown a bright green, and his face was gently colored with a soft patch of freckles.’
      • ‘There wasn't an ounce of curl in any hair on her head, and she was sure that he would be most disappointed in her appearance.’
      • ‘It ‘gave a rotundity to my person, a wave and curl to my hair, and perhaps led me to fancy pictorial illustration and flaming colours’.’
      • ‘Gabriel had black hair cut short at the sides and back, while the top and front was long enough to show the curl in his thick hair.’
      • ‘My blonde tresses had caused me trouble ever since I had my haircut up to my shoulders, from a previous length of my waist, and the natural curl came out.’
      • ‘The damp is taking all the curl out of my naturally curly hair!’
      • ‘Personally I hate my hair; it tends to have a natural curl to it, so I cut it to prevent it from getting out of control.’
      • ‘I bit my lip lightly as I finished putting the final curl in the left ponytail on my head.’
      • ‘A quick climb up the family tree and it's easy to pick out the source of our eye color, the curl in our hair, even our personality quirks.’
      • ‘Something about the dress brought out the twinkle in her eyes and the curl of her dark hair.’
    3. 1.3
  • 2A weightlifting exercise involving movement of only the hands, wrists, and forearms:

    ‘a dumb-bell curl’
    • ‘Ego wins the day, and another pair of biceps is left to wilt for the glory of a heavy barbell curl.’
    • ‘So, naturally, this meant we'd better do one more exercise - concentration curls.’
    • ‘The exercise that best meets those criteria is standing alternate dumbbell curls.’
    • ‘For the biceps, start out with a major massbuilding exercise like barbell curls.’
    • ‘This lift uniquely stresses forearm flexors that other wrist curls underemphasize.’
    • ‘The lying cable biceps curl helps bodybuilders more thoroughly develop their biceps and brachialis muscles.’
    • ‘Therefore, you might want to perform an isolation exercise such as preacher curls instead and take the delts out of play.’
    • ‘Basically, the setup and execution are the same as for reverse wrist curls, except for the grip, which is underhand.’
    • ‘Barbell and dumbbell wrist curls work well, as do behind-the-back wrist curls.’
    • ‘Follow this set with hamstring and/or glute exercises such as stiff-leg deadlifts and leg curls.’
    • ‘Because the Smith machine limits you to a fixed path, the range of motion here will be shorter than on a free-weight barbell curl.’
    • ‘This is another type of curl that effectively isolates the biceps.’
    • ‘I never cheat while doing my arm exercises, but I decided to listen to Arnold and try his barbell cheat curl.’
    • ‘For example, when doing barbell curls I'll lower the bar slowly, really controlling the weight.’
    • ‘The workout consists of three basic exercises: wrist curls, reverse wrist curls and forearm rotations.’
    • ‘It seems the freakier the forearms, the fewer wrist curls an elite bodybuilder has performed.’
    • ‘You might also decide to try an alternate exercise like stiff-legged deadlifts or seated curls.’
    • ‘Heavy compound lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, typically require a longer rest period than pushdowns or wrist curls.’
    • ‘Switch your type of leg curl (lying, seated or standing) and rep pattern frequently.’
    • ‘To illustrate my point, try doing reverse curls with the same weight with which you can perform a standard barbell curl.’
  • 3Mathematics
    A function giving a measure of the rotation of a vector field.


  • make someone's hair curl

    • informal Shock or horrify someone:

      ‘she drives at a speed to make your hair curl’
      • ‘The string of expletives that then emitted from the phone would make you hair curl.’
      • ‘Some of the bad guys there did things that would probably make even your hair curl - and I don't even want to give you any ideas.’
      • ‘Whatever your politics, it will make your hair curl.’
      • ‘There are things going in in this world that make your hair curl.’
      • ‘The last information he had received was from survivors, and it was horrifying, that it would make a man 's hair curl.’
      shock, stun, horrify, appal, scandalize, make someone's blood run cold
      make someone's hair stand on end
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Late Middle English: from obsolete crulle ‘curly’, from Middle Dutch krul.