Definition of spiral in English:



  • 1Winding in a continuous and gradually widening (or tightening) curve, either round a central point on a flat plane or about an axis so as to form a cone.

    ‘a spiral pattern’
    • ‘Female tusks, when they do appear, tend to be shorter and cleaner with more tightly wound spiral patterns.’
    • ‘Complexity is the study of how complicated systems can generate simple behavior, such as the sustained spiral pattern seen here.’
    • ‘It was like a pink disk, flat, and inch across, a spiral pattern of tiny dots on its surface.’
    • ‘The barren land around her was lit, revealing the tents that swirled around in a spiral pattern.’
    • ‘It was white with a red and blue spiral tie-dye pattern, and had a Yin / Yang symbol at the center.’
    • ‘As soon as the tumbler begins turning, a spiral pattern appears as grains of one color wrap around grains of the other color.’
    • ‘Down would go a wing, and the plane would enter a spiral spin.’
    • ‘Most crop deformations appear as simple, nearly perfect circles of grain flattened in a spiral pattern.’
    • ‘The way in which the spiral patterns of sunflower seeds and pine cones grow is described by the sequence, and it is common for the number of petals on a flower to be a Fibonacci number.’
    • ‘Mina lowered her eyes to my shirt, tracing the blue spiral pattern with the fingertips of her left hand.’
    • ‘If they had a very special request they purchased a spiral coil of incense which was suspended from the ceiling and burned slowly over a whole week.’
    • ‘I traced the spiral pattern on one of the rugs with me toe.’
    • ‘This creates the spiral Damascus pattern and it is forged again to form a billet.’
    • ‘When the solution is placed as a thin film under stationary conditions, concentric or spiral wave patterns develop in the solution.’
    • ‘Most of those photos show the orbs to have a spiral pattern inside the orb.’
    • ‘The spiral pattern is sufficiently regular that it leads to a numerical parameter characteristic for the species, called its divergence.’
    • ‘Place the dough in a greased banitsa pan, starting in the middle and spiralling out, pressing the coils into the spiral shape towards the edge of the pan, baking as above.’
    • ‘The large coiled-straw hat forms a spiral pattern above the sharecropper's graying head, a halo earned, but perhaps too little too late.’
    • ‘Hundreds of truckloads of mining refuse were brought in, then planted with 11,000 Finnish pine trees in a complex spiral pattern.’
    • ‘Arrange all integers in a hexagonal spiral pattern.’
    1. 1.1 Winding in a continuous curve of constant diameter about a central axis, as though along a cylinder; helical.
      • ‘Many club mosses have leaves which are attached in a spiral pattern, while in other creeping species the leaves are all oriented in the same plane.’
      • ‘I will fly counterclockwise around the station in a spiral pattern, starting at the bottom.’
      • ‘The unit pictured has a spiral twist, first bent around a big tin can, then a smaller one and then an even smaller one for smooth curves.’
      • ‘The Comanche had gone into spiral mode, twisting this way and that in a futile attempt to stay airborne.’
      • ‘This meant the dogs had to run at different speeds along their spiral paths.’
      • ‘Circular accelerators move particles along a circular or spiral path in machines that vary in size from less than a few feet to many miles in diameter.’
      • ‘She was twisting the spiral cord with her long red nails.’
      • ‘Volvulus classically appears on the upper GI as a spiral corkscrew of the duodenum.’
      • ‘If you take a look, you will see that, in many cases, as you progress up along a stem, the leaves are located on a spiral path that winds around the stem.’
      • ‘Helicobacter pylori, a spiral bacterium of the stomach, infects more than half of the world's population.’
      • ‘A round steel newel post supports a spiral oak volute and anchors the balustrade to a wide bottom step.’
      • ‘The atoms of natural sugars are all laid out in an asymmetrical manner, having a right-handed spiral twist.’
      • ‘At the edge of each floorplate is a spiral atrium, created by ‘twisting’ each successive floor.’
      • ‘The male reproductive system contains four pairs of accessory glands, the most prominent of which are the tightly coiled spiral accessory glands.’
      • ‘They were fleshy and tender like her own arms, but rimmed with spiral corkscrew blades which stretched from wrist to shoulder on each limb, and of course, the hooks.’
      • ‘Basically, you twist the developing can in a spiral movement as you invert it.’
      • ‘In the spring, I took in an exhibit of Frank Gehry models and drawings arrayed along the spiral ramp within the Guggenheim Museum in New York.’
      • ‘The plates were shaped to induce spiral motion in the particles, since accelerating them along a straight track would require an accelerator longer than the laboratory.’
      • ‘The gold mounting is decorated with pearling and designed in a spiral pattern that has been heavily chased to give the effect of octopus tentacles.’
      coiled, helical, helix-shaped, corkscrew, curling, winding, twisting, whorled, scrolled
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (of a stairway) constantly turning in one direction as it rises, round a solid or open centre.
      ‘a wrought-iron spiral staircase’
      • ‘The party fell back; squatting around the spiral stairwell, pointing their weapons in preparation.’
      • ‘A spiral staircase might be a good choice, as you don't have a lot of room, and a spiral stair will take up less room.’
      • ‘Each floor has an oblong chamber with a small room and spiral stair in the wall thickness at the seaward end.’
      • ‘Kira rolled her eyes and followed her, up a long spiral stairway.’
      • ‘All include a mezzanine level with a wrought-iron spiral stairway leading from a comfortable sitting area to the bedroom above.’
      • ‘The damage to one of the two great pinnacles that top the East Front is so bad that if you stand in the spiral stairway inside, you can see daylight through joints between the stones.’
      • ‘At the foot of the spiral stairway, they presented Tetra with their star spangled permits.’
      • ‘They made their way down a spiral corridor of stairs.’
      • ‘Our first house wasn't huge, but when I was eight we moved to this enormous place in Hampstead, next to Sting, with spiral stairs and marble floors and a back garden like a playing field.’
      • ‘The three of them walked single file down past the familiar sets of doors and the rows of bunks and again entered the spiral stairwell.’
      • ‘Anyone climbing the ladder to the loft is suspended above the vertical spiral stairwell - not recommended for those nervous of heights.’
      • ‘I decided to leave our luggage downstairs rather than negotiate the spiral stairway.’
      • ‘They found the stairway - a spiral stairway constructed of black marble - almost immediately and started up it.’
      • ‘Bahamut proceeded into the enclosed spiral stairwell that would lead them to the peak of the mountain.’
      • ‘She pushed open the door and instantly headed up the spiral stairs to the third floor, to her room.’
      • ‘Quiet, clean and spare, it led, past a short spiral stairway with a gallery, to a darker room.’
      • ‘There are some instances, like the spiral stairwell, I know he would've done something in.’
      • ‘The spiral stairwell that circled lazily through each floor was merely inches from the inside of the closet.’
      • ‘She descended the dark spiral stairway, careful not to hit her elbows against the narrow passage.’
      • ‘Patsy got up thereafter and redressed, put on her makeup and then went downstairs and found the three-page ransom note at the bottom of the spiral stairway.’
    3. 1.3Medicine (of a fracture) curving round a long bone lengthwise.
      • ‘A throwing fracture is a spiral fracture of the shaft of the humerus which is caused by the high torque on the arm during the throw.’
      • ‘Recently he was forced to take an extended break to recover from a spiral fracture to his fibula, which ended up requiring multiple surgeries.’
      • ‘The 26-year-old received a spiral fracture of the right leg last May, but is poised to start the final surge back to full fitness next week.’
      • ‘Transverse fractures are often harder to align and immobilise than apparently more serious oblique or spiral fractures.’
      • ‘Luckily, the break was in a spiral fracture and I didn't need any plates or screws, so they just slapped a cast on my leg, gave me some Motrin, and I was on my way.’
    4. 1.4
      ‘a spiral notebook’
      short for spiral-bound
      • ‘In English we all get a spiral notebook we're to write in.’
      • ‘For several months now I've been carrying around a little pocket-size spiral notebook in my jacket.’
      • ‘He carried a large spiral notebook under his left arm.’
      • ‘When I sat down at my desk, I pulled out my spiral notebook.’
      • ‘In either case, the child's responses may be recorded as a check on sticky labels, Post-it pads, or in a small spiral notebook.’
      • ‘I closed my spiral notebook and stuffed it into my bag.’
      • ‘A small wooden desk, bearing a blue ceramic lamp and a spiral notebook, crouched bowlegged in one corner.’
      • ‘Tiara snatched a spiral notebook out of Erik's hand.’
      • ‘I write in spiral notebooks, the plain, drugstore kind.’
      • ‘People behind these spiral notebooks with glossy finishing and other stationery items are mentally challenged children.’
      • ‘But, now, she was scrawling badly jumbled words in an old spiral notebook that she rarely ever used.’
      • ‘I always carry a small spiral notebook in my shirt pocket and, more recently, a small electronic memo recorder, to save ideas and images for future use.’
      • ‘To complement such play, a simple recipe book with large numbers, words, and pictures can be made out of a spiral notebook with laminated pages.’
      • ‘I keep these spiral notebooks, and everyday I write down the date and start a new page.’
      • ‘The truth was locked up in the confines of my spiral notebook.’
      • ‘For some reason the girl closed herself off even more, keeping to her spiral notebook and taking in what the teachers had to say.’
      • ‘‘We write in a spiral notebook, and when we need to name a foal we refer to it for ideas,’ Charles said.’
      • ‘As a compact, portable device, the Tablet PC, which is about the size of a typical spiral notebook, is said to add a new dimension to the classroom.’
      • ‘Kerrie reached down at her side and picked up a spiral notebook.’


  • 1A spiral curve, shape, pattern, or object.

    ‘a spiral of smoke’
    • ‘The pattern can be spied in everything from the spirals of sea shells to the shape of pine cones.’
    • ‘For more than three centuries botanists and mathematicians have marveled at the complex and beautiful spiral patterns that form as plants develop.’
    • ‘Small spiral shaped gills are found, which pick up oxygen from the water.’
    • ‘Afterwards, he paced around in his own form, then as deer-beast, and then returned to his true shape to fly in spirals above the temporary camp.’
    • ‘She pulled out something that looked to be a key, but it was made of crystal, and the end of it curved into a spiral.’
    • ‘In it he describes very clearly the distinctive spiral shaped organisms which were later identified as being part of the helicobacter family.’
    • ‘In ever-more-abstracted form and diverse media, these elemental shapes, such as spirals, labyrinths, lozenges, and goddesses, recurred in her work.’
    • ‘Although dubbed ‘Gherkin,’ the spiral in its shape more resembles a pinecone.’
    • ‘That is why that is such an important moment, not because the thing was shaped like two spirals - that's just aesthetically pleasing - but because the world changed on that day.’
    • ‘We show elementary hand-drawn patterns such as spirals and gold bands.’
    • ‘Angeli's many works were on infinitesimals and he used them to study spirals, parabolas and hyperbolas.’
    • ‘The designs are sometimes simply spirals or other patterns, but they might also be scenes from fairy tales or of famous people or places.’
    • ‘On the bare floorboards was a design, a twisting pattern of spirals and waves that was mesmerising.’
    • ‘It has a top speed of fifty five miles per hour and riders will experience spirals, corkscrews, a cobra roll, and overbanked curves.’
    • ‘However, I do remember clearly the double spiral (figure-of-eight) shape.’
    • ‘Fowler's work consists of repetitive handwritten words, scribed on paper in spirals and other patterns.’
    • ‘It is useful to observe the patient drinking from a glass, writing, or drawing a rhythmic pattern such as a spiral.’
    • ‘Headdresses, like the African one pictured in this article, show one way in which people have used spirals based on shapes found in Nature for headdresses.’
    • ‘For another example from the botanical world, if you look at a sunflower you will see a beautiful pattern of two spirals, one running clockwise, the other counterclockwise.’
    • ‘Deeply engraved in each structure was a pattern of wings and spirals, that almost resembled a bird flying towards the ceiling.’
    coil, helix, curl, corkscrew, twist, gyre, whorl, scroll, curlicue, convolution
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Astronomy
      short for spiral galaxy
      • ‘Both galaxies are spirals of roughly the same age, with stars strewn across flattened disks of roughly the same size, more than 100,000 light-years across.’
      • ‘Starbirth regions exist in most galaxies, particularly in spirals, and are obvious as clouds of predominantly hydrogen gas call H II regions.’
      • ‘Galaxies and nebulae are often enormous spirals floating in outer space.’
      • ‘Hubble's tuning fork distinguishes ‘normal’ spiral galaxies from spirals that show a bar across the center.’
  • 2A progressive rise or fall of prices, wages, etc., each responding to an upward or downward stimulus provided by a previous one.

    ‘an inflationary spiral’
    • ‘The company's share price, already in a downward spiral, continued its fall and has now lost half its value in the past year and a half.’
    • ‘There would be a downward spiral of prices, but no actual increase in market share for any of the firms involved.’
    • ‘It's not workers caught in downward wage spirals.’
    • ‘The output reductions would be made with a view to halting the downward spiral of DRAM prices, itself caused by supply vastly outweighing demand.’
    • ‘Economists said the increase was higher than had been expected and presented a danger that the economy would become caught up in a spiral of higher wage demands and higher prices.’
    • ‘As for property prices, there is no end to their upward spiral in sight.’
    • ‘As a result, there was an upward spiral in the share price of GTB, which helped it achieve a better swap ratio in the merger.’
    • ‘Why work when we can all borrow against an ever upward spiral of house prices?’
    • ‘Until recently, the Fed was worried that the nation would fall into deflation - a downward spiral of prices.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the downward spiral in price would be a direct consequence of any further reduction in tariff protection.’
    • ‘Carrefour and Casino have shown disappointing growth since the French government demanded a year ago that the country's food retailers reverse the upward spiral of prices.’
    • ‘Meritz also believes that the major memory producers will soon begin to cut back on production in a bid to prevent the downward spiral of DRAM prices.’
    • ‘Manufacturers also reported pressure from rising input costs, as oil prices continued their upward spiral.’
    • ‘He also said the Japanese economy is not about to fall into a deflationary spiral under which price falls and economic contraction take place simultaneously.’
    • ‘But if inflation is negative, that strategy won't work, and the economy could fall into a downward spiral.’
    • ‘Nesc says inflation must be tackled to avoid a wage price spiral becoming embedded in the economy.’
    • ‘It is no less important to ensure that costlier fuel does not give rise to an excessive inflationary spiral as regards the prices of other goods and services.’
    • ‘This is stuff that can put us on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and our share price in a downward spiral.’
    • ‘The residents are quite rightly convinced it will blight the area and lead to increased crime and a downward spiral of house prices.’
    • ‘Price pressure could lead to a wage spiral while dangerously high government spending also poses very real dangers down the line, he warned.’
    growth, rise, enlargement, expansion, extension, multiplication, elevation, swelling, inflation
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    1. 2.1 A process of deterioration through the continuous increase or decrease of a specified feature.
      ‘this spiral of deprivation and environmental degradation’
      • ‘There is a continuous downward spiral of living conditions for the majority of the population.’
      • ‘The huge work pressure the tutorial system creates, can lead students into a downward spiral of self-deprecation and loss of confidence.’
      • ‘Players were sold to try to take up some of the slack, increasing the spiral of disaster.’
      • ‘His term also saw a further increase in the spiral of violence, increasingly carried out by actors independent of the state.’
      • ‘The highest rates of sexual infection and unwanted pregnancy are in people from deprived backgrounds further increasing the spiral of decline into poverty and ill health.’
      • ‘Datalex continued its downward spiral after reporting a larger than expected second-quarter loss last week.’
      • ‘Nick Duerden's second novel studies the spiral of self destructiveness, and how some can fail over and over again yet still come out winning.’
      • ‘Since you broke up she's embarked on a downward spiral of dating increasingly unattractive men and it all makes for quite desperate reading.’
      • ‘This loss sends the relationship into a downward spiral, leading to increased bickering and fighting, and to the collapse of the union.’
      • ‘Over the next few years, she would hear about him through her brother, about his remarriage, his downward spiral, his self-destruction.’
      • ‘The collapse of the property bubble and the Asian financial crisis in 1997 sent the city into a downward spiral of job losses and deflation.’
      • ‘The bulk of the first half of the film concerns Jack Magnus's introduction to drugs and his downward spiral into self-destructive addiction.’
      • ‘Or else he will become one more voice in the wilderness in a country determined to go on a downward spiral of social and ecological self-destruction.’
      • ‘Chazan described the Israeli-Palestinian situation as a mess for the past four years and two months - a cycle of violence in a deteriorating spiral.’
      • ‘‘I'm a great optimist, but we're now caught in a downward spiral, economically and socially,’ he said.’
      • ‘Bender gets hooked on electricity, and Fry and the gang worry that he's on a downward spiral toward self-destruction.’
      • ‘The problem is how easy it is for an enjoyable night to slide into a downward spiral of chasing losses and going on tilt.’
      • ‘It was a gradual process that progressed through a downward spiral of self destruction.’
      • ‘This went on to cause no end of grief for her Mum and a downward spiral of self-destruction for this confused young teen.’
      • ‘The downward spiral on local business will only get worse, they fear.’


  • 1no object, with adverbial of direction Move in a spiral course.

    ‘a wisp of smoke spiralled up from the trees’
    • ‘Moss clung to the rocks and ivy climbed tirelessly, spiralling around the trees.’
    • ‘Soon enough, our intrepid reporter hero realizes that, due to some nuclear explosion experimentation, the earth has been thrust out of its orbit and is now spiralling towards the sun.’
    • ‘In the clear blue sky above, four open-billed storks had a got a thermal and were spiralling up, Icaris-like, on motionless wings, to an unknown destination.’
    • ‘Ivan started climbing the staircase that spiraled up to the payload section and gangway.’
    • ‘The blast ripped through three storeys of the building and started a fire which sent smoke spiralling through the twin towers.’
    • ‘The dance troupe recounts the death of gods - from the polluted air and the smoke spiraling up from sacrifices made in their honour.’
    • ‘After being cooped up in those constricting nests for months, here they were climbing, diving, spiraling and chattering feverishly, becoming better aeronauts by the minute.’
    • ‘The butterflies leapt into flight, spiraling up into the sunlight, up and up until Joshua could no longer see them.’
    • ‘The missiles that we shot just spiraled randomly after a second or two after being shot.’
    • ‘A cloud was slowly spiraling towards the sun and they retreated, moving to the edge of the forest, watching the skeletons appear one by one.’
    • ‘Sammy tapped her thumb furiously on the kick button, blocked Jack's move, and sent the character spiraling into the air.’
    • ‘Jane stared down at the water, the fish spiralling, swimming, moving with the current.’
    • ‘Hitting the far wall, he slipped down to the floor, escaping the rest of Shanza's attack, which roared through the obstacle to spiral out of the Temple and shoot into the sky.’
    • ‘White smoke must soon spiral up from Smith Square.’
    • ‘A huge blaze at an industrial park in Leeds last night sent plumes of black smoke spiralling nearly 2,000 ft into the air.’
    • ‘Faint smoke spiraled off the battery connections as they heated up.’
    • ‘When she looked around, she saw smoke spiraling from Charybdis.’
    coil, wind, twirl, swirl, twist, wreathe, snake, gyrate
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with object and adverbial Cause to have a spiral shape or follow a spiral course.
      ‘spiral the bandage round the limb’
      • ‘Digital modification stands in for genetic, and so the animals are lengthened, spiralled or moved across the picture plane as if a magnetic force - an exterior one - operated.’
      • ‘Twist the rod until the hair section is spiralled around it (the barrel should be held vertically, so the top is pointing up).’
      coil, wind, twirl, swirl, twist, wreathe, snake, gyrate
      View synonyms
  • 2no object Show a continuous and dramatic increase.

    ‘inflation continued to spiral’
    • ‘Unemployment soared, thousands emigrated and the national debt spiralled out of control.’
    • ‘As tensions have spiraled between Pyongyang and the US, Anti-American sentiment has exploded in South Korea.’
    • ‘‘The problem is further exacerbated by spiralling operational cost and high turnover of staff,’ Roopnarine said.’
    • ‘Tuition fees and the cost of living can lead to spiralling debts, or long hours in dead-end jobs taken to make ends meet.’
    • ‘The downward move came as fears eased that the hostage standoff could spiral out of control.’
    • ‘A growing compensation culture is being blamed by councillors in Leeds for the city's spiralling legal bill which has reached £22m.’
    • ‘I don't care enough about furniture, fast moving consumer goods, spiralling debt, bad public transport, grumpy angry faces.’
    • ‘Shortages for low-income Torontonians were once again rampant, rents were spiraling and evictions were increasing.’
    • ‘The stress with trying to move house has spiralled out of all control and doesn't look like it's going to reduce in the near future.’
    • ‘Regulation of the language school sector is needed urgently to combat spiralling levels of visa fraud involving thousands of individuals, a senior Garda has warned.’
    • ‘All the words they use are true: prices are soaring, spiralling, skyrocketing.’
    • ‘But of course the story has to spiral out of control ending in a ridiculous scene involving the social worker who has been assigned to Denise and RJ's case.’
    • ‘It is also around four times the original estimate, and as costs spiralled, Congress moved to scrap the project in its entirety.’
    • ‘He said this led to spiralling levels of thuggishness, vandalism and violent crime when revellers spilled on to the streets at closing time, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.’
    • ‘But the cost of the equipment they need, such as ropes, flares and the transmitters that detect the position of avalanche victims, is spiralling beyond the teams' ability to raise cash.’
    • ‘Policing the event, diverting the traffic and setting up and marshalling the course would see the costs spiralling.’
    • ‘Above any other area in the county the people of Ballon have faced tragedy after tragedy as the carnage on their local roads spirals to epidemic proportions.’
    • ‘The Northern Ireland drug chief, Jo Daykin, yesterday said cannabis use there could spiral following the move.’
    • ‘Houses gone out of people's reach, rents spiralling, inadequate hospital services, too few places for children at risk - it's all there under the cover of affluence.’
    soar, shoot up, rocket, increase rapidly, rise rapidly, leap up, escalate, climb, mount
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    1. 2.1spiral down/downward Decrease or deteriorate continuously.
      ‘he expects the figures to spiral down further’
      • ‘As Hendrix writes: ‘This is a movie that spirals down and down until it passes the point of no return.’’
      • ‘Shares spiralled down more than 75 per cent this morning, valuing the firm, which two years ago was worth £2.5 billion, at around £75m.’
      • ‘The neoliberal ‘medicine’ made the sickness worse: unemployment rocketed, living standards spiralled downwards.’
      • ‘Our times make you wonder if we're spiraling down into the end of time.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, diplomatic relations between the two nuclear-armed states continue to spiral downward.’
      • ‘The more you give in to desire the more you desire - and so the wicked vortex spirals down.’
      • ‘Nationally, there was also some good news with a 29 per cent drop, with the figure for the month spiralling down to 115 from 163.’
      • ‘The alternative is to try to liquidate a trust that will send prices spiralling down elsewhere hitting other bank loans in barbell structures.’
      • ‘There are just so many things that a creative government could do, and they would rather shove their thumbs up their bums and fiddle while Nassau spirals downward.’
      • ‘In recent years, he has clung to power as the country's economy spiraled downward and political opposition to his government has grown.’
      • ‘Unable to accept this reality, Kinsley, like many of the president's other critics, continues to spiral downward into irrationality.’
      • ‘The origin of her compulsive behaviour is the blank space around which the novel circles, as the former private-school girl spirals downward into drug addiction and anorexia.’
      • ‘The problem in our country is not between Tsvangirai and Mugabe, it has now spiralled down to grass-roots level.’
      • ‘Worse yet, as the economy continued to spiral downward, the inflow of dollars slowed, forcing the currency board to restrict the country's money supply even further.’
      • ‘It starts with the discovery of a man buried alive and spirals downward from there.’
      • ‘As I write this, I find myself spiralling down into even more unhappiness and depression.’
      • ‘Let's hope that the government fulfills its promise to provide more funding for NHS dental treatment or else I can see that this family's teeth may start spiralling down towards decay and dentures.’
      • ‘Yet from there, Elvis's life only spirals downward.’
      • ‘In April 1986 it fell to $2.40 and continued spiraling down to $2.01.’
      • ‘As the stock market continues to spiral downward and investor losses mount, mutual fund fees have found a way to continue to rise.’
      deteriorate, decline, degenerate, worsen, get worse
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Mid 16th century (as an adjective): from medieval Latin spiralis, from Latin spira ‘coil’ (see spire).