Definition of screw something up in English:

screw something up

phrasal verb

  • 1Crush a piece of paper or fabric into a tight mass.

    ‘he screwed the note up and threw it away’
    • ‘Once you do that you can take your ballot paper and screw it up and throw it away if you want.’
    • ‘His eyes flickered, and he screwed the paper up in his fist.’
    • ‘He turns the radio off and screws the paper up in a ball and swears that the dictator had the right idea after all.’
    • ‘I'd announce to a sceptical world, screwing up another packet of fags before chucking it - and my latest disposable lighter - into the outside bin.’
    • ‘I want to write my faults out on a sheet of paper; screw it up and throw it in the trash.’
    • ‘She was curled up in a ball and was surrounded a by a pile of screwed up tissues.’
    1. 1.1 Tense the muscles of one's face or around one's eyes, typically so as to register an emotion or because of bright light.
      ‘Christina screwed up her face in distaste’
      ‘Willie screwed up his eyes and peered upwards’
      • ‘He grasped the stems sweatily, screwing his eyes shut and praying hard.’
      • ‘She looks down, screws up her face and peers at me.’
      • ‘Squint your eyes, screw up your face and study the glossy frames and you'll find them fascinating.’
      • ‘I just screwed up my face and waited till he pulled it out.’
      • ‘His eyes were screwed tight as he hissed in pain.’
      • ‘Margaret listens quietly to our opinions, then screws up her face, deep in thought.’
      • ‘A torch was flicked on and Tam winced in the light, screwing up his eyes.’
      • ‘She just screwed up her face like she was about to cry and then changed the subject.’
      • ‘Lana screwed up her nose and made a face, ‘Not for a second!’’
      • ‘Chloe screwed up her nose and crossed her arms over her purple PJ's.’
      wrinkle, wrinkle up, pucker, crumple, crease, furrow, contort, distort, twist, purse
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  • 2informal Cause something to fail or go wrong.

    ‘why are you trying to screw up your life?’
    • ‘Predictably, it screwed everything up not only for my Broadband account email, but 3 other email accounts too - leaving me able to receive mail but unable to send anything.’
    • ‘Clearly, Sherman has rolled the dice, but he knows Glenn can't screw this one up if he wants to play football again.’
    • ‘Well, if only one television program screws this up, it is a reflection on the stupidity and incompetence of its producers and hosts.’
    • ‘If you do the steps wrong, you screw it up.’
    • ‘I screwed up my life, and with it I screwed up yours too!’
    • ‘I felt as though I was useless, I just screwed everything up.’
    • ‘If he thinks I'm doing something wrong or if I break something or screw something up he gives me extra cleaning duties to do at closing time.’
    • ‘Have I done something wrong, did I screw something up?’
    • ‘I sat down and read the orders a couple times to be sure I wouldn't screw anything up.’
    • ‘He's a good friend of mine, and I don't want to screw that up too much.’
    wreck, ruin, destroy, devastate, wreak havoc on, reduce to nothing, damage, spoil, mar, injure, blast, blight, smash, shatter, dash, torpedo, scotch, make a mess of, mess up
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  • 3Summon up one's courage.

    ‘now Stephen had to screw up his courage and confess’
    • ‘I've been trying to screw up the courage to call you ever since.’
    • ‘It is worth screwing up your courage and following them, if only for the flowers.’
    • ‘The ranger screwed up his courage and decided to look in on Father Goodwin.’
    • ‘I screwed up my courage to ask him what was uppermost in my mind.’
    • ‘Kelly himself wasn't an agonised man screwing up his courage to approach the one journalist he knew and trusted.’
    • ‘I was interested, I told the salesman, screwing up my courage - but I'd already seen it cheaper somewhere else.’
    • ‘The scene in which the host and hostess of the tavern screw their courage up before murdering Thomas Cole has been seen as an analogue to Macbeth.’