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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When he didn't move she curled her hand around the solid shoulder and shook him gently.’
    • ‘She was deep in conversation with the girl sitting by her, bent forward, her hair curling round her face, her eyes wide.’
    • ‘He wrapped his fingers in her long curling hair and rested his forehead against hers.’
    • ‘His tiny pink fingers and toes were curled tightly, and his eyes were shut, but, to his mother, he was perfect.’
    • ‘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!’
    • ‘She had her jacket slung over her shoulder, her finger curled through the loop in a way that was enticing despite being mundane.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Her fingers curled tightly into his hair, almost pulling it in her frustration.’
    • ‘Before long she'd nod off, book splayed out the armrest, fingers still curled around the mug.’
    • ‘He bent downward, and curled his fingers into one large fist.’
    • ‘Instead, her arms circled his neck, her fingers curling into his hair.’
    • ‘He looks sun-tanned and well, clearly enjoying his cup of tea as he daintily curls his fingers round the handle.’
    • ‘He reached out and touched her face gently, a windblown strand of hair curling around his finger.’
    • ‘Lightly pan-fry bologna slice (with rind) until it curls into a bowl shape.’
    • ‘He untied something from his neck and placed it in her hand, and curled her fingers round it.’
    • ‘Allow the pieces to cool before moving them to prevent curling and crimping.’
    • ‘Her straight hair was curled slightly, curving below her shoulders.’
    wind, twine, entwine, wrap
    crimp, wave, tong
    go curly, go frizzy, frizz out, frizzle, crinkle
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    1. 1.1curl upno object Sit or lie with the knees drawn up.
      ‘she curled up and went to sleep’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I close my eyes again, drawing my knees up to my chest and curling up in a defensive ball.’
      • ‘I curled up in a corner and buried my head in my knees and started sobbing as subtly as I could.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And when she is done, she curls up on the couch and smiles to herself.’
      • ‘As the dog curls up beside me and another shower of sparks soars into the night I reflect that this is a minor complaint.’
      • ‘He would curl up into the foetal position and weep at the mention of his ex-girlfriend's name.’
      • ‘Madeleine curled up into a ball on the floor, drawing her knees tightly to her chest and hugging them.’
      • ‘She sat down on her comfy couch, curling up in a ball.’
      • ‘A friendly dog runs up to us and curls up in my husband's lap.’
      • ‘But I just feel like nailing my door shut and curling up in a ball in the corner of my room.’
      • ‘If you have a right angled desk with screens behind it, then curl up underneath it during your break.’
      • ‘Me, I would curl up in a fetal position under the table and wait for someone to rescue me.’
      • ‘He curls up in his seat, knees up to his shoulders, his arms hugging himself tight.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He curled up on the seat beside me, fixing me with his daunting blue-gold eyes.’
      • ‘At that moment the princess flipped herself over to curl up into a tighter position.’
      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’
      • ‘The assistant referee signalled that the cross had curled out of play before hitting the woodwork.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It curls towards goal and he plucks it confidently from the air.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her smoke curled toward the light over the table where a moth was bumping against the bulb.’
      • ‘He takes a shot from the dead ball line, but it curls behind the goal.’
      • ‘Sweet-smelling fingers of smoke twisted and curled into the air, filling the sanctuary with a primordial mist.’
      • ‘Your wings can also curl around the post players or even go baseline and exchange places with each other.’
      • ‘Two men sit in a small, claustrophobic room, cigarette smoke curling through the soft light.’
      • ‘I felt my stomach backflip as the smoke curled around me.’
      • ‘Smoke curled inside itself, pushing out through slitted windows.’
      • ‘But with two minutes remaining it was he who managed to grab the winner when he curled in a shot from 20 yards.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Smoke rose in curling tendrils up to the ceiling that was starting to stain with the toxic fumes.’
      • ‘I just curled around him and pulled up at the free throw line.’
      • ‘The smoke from his pipe curled into the air in lazy circles.’
      • ‘I glanced up at the sky, and indeed, smoke was curling lazily from one of three chimneys.’
      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’
      • ‘I turned to her, slightly entertained at the annoyance curling her upper lip.’
      • ‘The sides of his lips curled upwards ever so slightly that if you had even blinked for a millisecond you would have missed it.’
      • ‘Doug's lips curl in contempt towards his brother-in-law.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The husband's lips were curled slightly, forming a meager smile; the wife was wearing no smile at all.’
      • ‘I had my nose curled slightly and my mouth opened in surprise as I looked from one to the other.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The old man was staring at him, upper lip curled back from his teeth.’
      • ‘He kept his voice neutral, but the left side of his upper lip curled slightly in disapproval.’
      • ‘It stood in front of me and it curled its upper lip, exposing one canine and incisor.’
      • ‘When Sean was safely out of earshot, he allowed his upper lip to curl into the slightest sneer.’
      • ‘His mouth curled slightly as he looked her over, and Lily sighed and looked away.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His eyes darkened, and the right side of his lips curled slightly.’
      • ‘One side of his mouth curled upward as I assumed that he recognized me.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I rolled my eyes and curled my upper lip in feigned revulsion.’
      • ‘My lip curled in contempt as I noticed the thing clinging to his arm.’
  • 2with object (in weight training) lift (a weight) using only the hands, wrists, and forearms.

    ‘slowly curl the barbell to shoulder height’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘With elbows fixed in position, she contracts her biceps to curl the weights toward her shoulders.’
    • ‘With shoulders back and elbows at your sides, curl the weights as you turn your palms up.’
    • ‘For instance, rather than keeping your torso rigid during barbell curls, you can sway backward and then forward as you curl the weight upward.’
    • ‘With the bar down in front of my thighs, I curl the weight up while keeping my upper arms in place.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘You're curling twice as much weight, so you have to work harder, whereas alternate curls allow more rest for each arm between reps.’
    • ‘Then curl the barbell up and let it slowly drop back down until your hands are hanging.’
    • ‘Hold that breath as you curl both weights toward your shoulders, exhaling slowly as you finish the concentric part of the rep.’
    • ‘Tighten your midsection, take a deep breath, curl both weights toward your shoulders and exhale at the top.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Slowly curl the weights up to your shoulders, tightening the bicep muscle as you go.’
    • ‘With the supinating curl, you start with your hands in the hammer position and turn your palms up as you curl the weight.’
    • ‘He flexes his elbows in earnest to begin curling the weight at a moderate pace, under control.’
    • ‘Just before you completely lower the weight, begin curling with the other arm.’
    • ‘Make sure your biceps contraction alone curls the weight all the way to the top.’
    • ‘Grasp the handles of the machine and inhale as you flex the knees and slowly curl the weights until the pads touch the buttocks.’
    • ‘Keeping your upper arm pressed against your thigh, curl the weight up and toward your shoulder.’
    • ‘The boss still worked his muscles, lifting and curling with special weights that he bought when they still made such things.’
    • ‘Regardless of which isolation exercise I select, the plan is to curl the weight slowly and to go for a full muscular contraction.’
  • 3no 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’
    • ‘She has a mass of black curls, a long, still stare, a restless intellect.’
    • ‘Her hair was damp too, making her usually straight hair coil up in small curls.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Her auburn hair fell down about her shoulders, the ends styled in spiral curls.’
    • ‘Fear, greed and sexual obsession tangle in a plot that has more twists than a curl of smoke traveling through a double helix.’
    • ‘He was smaller than the man at the door, his hair tied back in a tangle of dark curls.’
    • ‘She had desperately tried to tame her hair by running a comb through her tangle of curls, but with no avail.’
    • ‘My hair was in spiral curls that hung loosely around my face, forming a dark shadow around my glowing face.’
    • ‘After a year of curls, hair is heading for a pared-down look.’
    • ‘Her eyes followed the winding twists and the curls of smoke as the sky broke open to the ocean beneath.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘You won't see his receivers running a lot of curls, running to the sideline or catching the ball from a dead stop.’
    • ‘Shower and shampoo has left my hair in an uncontrollable mass of curls and tangles.’
    • ‘The vegetables will open up or set in wonderful stars, curls or palm-tree shapes.’
    • ‘The curl of smoke twisted through the tall grass as the hunter stared over the hill tops.’
    • ‘Beautiful blonde locks and bouncy curls framed the delicately shaped face.’
    • ‘The holsters have a lip curl so the cylinder will not hang up when re-holstering.’
    • ‘Pins, clips, combs, and feathers captured their graying hair into elaborate curls and twists.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’
      • ‘She tried to ignore her, but she caught the quick curl of lips and grinned.’
      • ‘However, there was an angry curl to his lips as he awaited the Old Man's explanation.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She looks at him with a delighted curl to her red 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She easily captures this grasping floozy, with just a curl of her bee-stung lips and her eyes alternately vacant and cunning.’
      • ‘Nothing wrong with that, but a slight tweak in hand position transforms an ordinary curl into a hammer curl.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He, apparently ruthless in his ambition, gave up on mainstream politics with barely a curl of those famous lips.’
      • ‘I read over my recent entries with a curl to my lip; I'm not at my sparkling best in winter.’
      • ‘With a roll of my eyes and a curl of my lip, I took out my notebook and started sketching.’
      • ‘He fought to control the instinctive curl of his lip.’
      • ‘He inhabits the champ from the first curl of his lip and half-lidded gaze.’
      • ‘Worse than that: they evoke a contemptuous curl of the lip.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I could tell he had adopted an unusual air by the strange curl on his beautiful lips.’
      • ‘She averted her eyes, shifting her gaze to her feet in an attempt to avoid the mischievous curl of his lips.’
      • ‘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.’
    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’
      • ‘The damp is taking all the curl out of my naturally curly hair!’
      • ‘Finally, for you curly heads, don't towel dry your hair because it'll break up your natural curl, creating lackluster, frizzy hair.’
      • ‘It is then treated with an oxidizing solution that reforms protein bonds and causes the hair to maintain a curl.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She released the lock of dark brown hair, letting it fall into a graceful spiral curl.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Because hair is porous, it absorbs moisture, which activates curl.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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’.’
      • ‘I bit my lip lightly as I finished putting the final curl in the left ponytail on my head.’
      • ‘Use a curling iron to add a very soft curl at the bottom of the lock of 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.’
      • ‘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.’
    3. 1.3
  • 2A weightlifting exercise involving movement of only the hands, wrists, and forearms.

    ‘a dumb-bell curl’
    • ‘Follow this set with hamstring and/or glute exercises such as stiff-leg deadlifts and leg curls.’
    • ‘This lift uniquely stresses forearm flexors that other wrist curls underemphasize.’
    • ‘Heavy compound lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, typically require a longer rest period than pushdowns or wrist curls.’
    • ‘I never cheat while doing my arm exercises, but I decided to listen to Arnold and try his barbell cheat curl.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Barbell and dumbbell wrist curls work well, as do behind-the-back wrist curls.’
    • ‘It seems the freakier the forearms, the fewer wrist curls an elite bodybuilder has performed.’
    • ‘Therefore, you might want to perform an isolation exercise such as preacher curls instead and take the delts out of play.’
    • ‘Ego wins the day, and another pair of biceps is left to wilt for the glory of a heavy barbell curl.’
    • ‘You might also decide to try an alternate exercise like stiff-legged deadlifts or seated curls.’
    • ‘The exercise that best meets those criteria is standing alternate dumbbell curls.’
    • ‘This is another type of curl that effectively isolates the biceps.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Basically, the setup and execution are the same as for reverse wrist curls, except for the grip, which is underhand.’
    • ‘So, naturally, this meant we'd better do one more exercise - concentration curls.’
    • ‘For the biceps, start out with a major massbuilding exercise like barbell curls.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The lying cable biceps curl helps bodybuilders more thoroughly develop their biceps and brachialis muscles.’
  • 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 last information he had received was from survivors, and it was horrifying, that it would make a man 's hair curl.’
      • ‘There are things going in in this world that make your hair curl.’
      • ‘Whatever your politics, it will make your 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.’
      • ‘The string of expletives that then emitted from the phone would make you hair curl.’
      shock, stun, horrify, appal, scandalize, make someone's blood run cold
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Late Middle English: from obsolete crulle ‘curly’, from Middle Dutch krul.