Definition of cling in US English:



[no object]cling to/onto/on
  • 1(of a person or animal) hold on tightly to.

    ‘she clung to Joe's arm’
    ‘they clung together’
    figurative ‘she clung onto life’
    • ‘The rowers clung on tightly to their yellow bladed oars.’
    • ‘Call me paranoid, but I've been clinging on tightly to my handbags ever since.’
    • ‘I clung on tightly to my seven weights while others dropped their three.’
    • ‘He clung on to the staff as tightly as he could, and the combined force of the Crayleks yanked him off his feet.’
    • ‘Lidiah's hand caught onto something and she clung on tight whilst squeezing her eyes shut.’
    • ‘She looks broken, like she needs to be put back together, and she clings to the boy next to her.’
    • ‘Its activists have clung to the sides of oil tankers to make a point.’
    • ‘Five years on, she was driven out of the office that she had clung to.’
    • ‘Don't think of how tightly Lee clings to his power, that is not the real worry.’
    • ‘Instead, she grabs my hand, interlinking her fingers with mine and clinging on so tightly that I can feel the pulse in her cool fingertips.’
    • ‘Celinda was thankful for the rescue and clung on to him tightly.’
    • ‘It was freezing, and Miel clung on to his hand so tightly, he thought it'd break.’
    • ‘I let go of her even though she clung on tightly to me.’
    • ‘He wished upon a star, clung to his dream, and in the end it happened: he was asked to join the Rolling Stones.’
    • ‘She clung on like a leech, her fingers tightly gripping his shoulders, and Ben could clearly hear her heart beating as well as his own.’
    • ‘I lowered myself over the edge, and clinging on tightly with my feet, began to lower myself into the gloom.’
    • ‘Peterhead clings to its harbour like a man overboard grips a lifebuoy.’
    • ‘Katrina went to him, wrapped her arms around his waist as tightly as a monkey clinging to a branch.’
    • ‘She didn't say anything, she just clung to him tightly and he pulled her through the water.’
    • ‘Suddenly, Nimue put her arms around her and clung to her tightly as if she never wanted to let her go.’
    hold on to, clutch, grip, grasp, clasp, attach oneself to, hang on to, hold tightly, clench
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    1. 1.1cling to Adhere or stick firmly or closely to; be hard to part or remove from.
      ‘the smell of smoke clung to their clothes’
      ‘the fabric clung to her smooth skin’
      • ‘Waters of affliction cannot quench love - it only grows stronger and clings more firmly to its object.’
      • ‘Like all other Indian restaurants I've been to, its interior decor clings closely to Indian culture.’
      • ‘The new government should not cling too closely to the economic performance of the country during its first year.’
      • ‘Silk and artificial fabrics can cling, restricting airflow and causing you to sweat more.’
      • ‘She was wearing a teal green dress, sleeveless, and cut in a deep ‘V’ at the bustline, made of a fabric that clung tightly to her body.’
      • ‘She continued walking, ignoring her hair plastered to her face, the way her clothes clung uncomfortably to her body.’
      • ‘The clothes clung closely to her slender body, lending her the uneasy feeling of exposure.’
      • ‘As well, a light solid green kimono hung loosely on her body as a large blue waistband clung firmly to her body.’
      • ‘Still the stain clings, sticks fast like the smell of sin.’
      • ‘Every couple of kilometres we passed hill villages, closely packed mazes of flat-roofed mud buildings clinging like beehives to the steep valley walls.’
      • ‘Standing in front of me, dark hair wet and clinging, clothes completely saturated, he was breathing hard, looking incredulous.’
      • ‘In that case, they would have to go back outside; he was cold and the fat snowflakes were clinging damply to his clothes and hair.’
      • ‘Slowly, his wings came back onto his body and clung closely against his back, letting it sink in.’
      • ‘Here was no mere embattled tribe clinging hard to existence, but a great and glorious empire.’
      • ‘A couple gave him an odd look at the sagging clothes that clung desperately to his drenched body.’
      • ‘The miniscule scraps of wet fabric clung desperately to her as she stepped onto the deck.’
      • ‘My hair was drenched and plastered to the sides of my face, and my sopping clothes clung tightly to my shivering body.’
      • ‘His black button-down shirt clung gently to his hard chest, and I could automatically tell that he was completely ripped.’
      • ‘The smoke seemed to cling tenaciously to Erul, as he hacked and coughed.’
      • ‘Her hair clung to her face as she stood on her balcony watching the rain fall around her.’
      stick, adhere, hold, cohere, bond, bind
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    2. 1.2cling to Remain very close to.
      ‘the fish cling to the line of the weed’
      • ‘She smiled up at him, and then looked back over to Kevin, who now had Mary clinging closely to him.’
      • ‘Aurora clung even closer to Nathan after the encounter with Sylvia, and Ella's eyes seemed to smolder with jealousy.’
      • ‘He clung close to his father's arm, gazing wide-eyed around him all the while.’
      • ‘I began to see clearly how depression had clung close to the outer edges of my life for many years.’
      • ‘He noticed that since the tournament, the blond woman clung even closer to her lover.’
      • ‘The dark elf seemed ill at ease among the buildings, and clung close to One Nine's shaggy thigh.’
      • ‘Also trembling, she clung closer to what I guessed was her older brother.’
      • ‘And to warm themselves, the women cling close together under Mrs Charmond's furs until she feels strong enough to get to her feet.’
      • ‘It clings tenuously to the stony mountainside in a thin line of hairpins before dropping out of sight.’
      • ‘In short, the minnow's biological proficiency does little to foster its survival in the modified world to which this fish desperately clings.’
      • ‘His fists clenched tighter than they ever had, his arms clung close to his stomach in agony.’
      • ‘Marta clung close to Dan's side when not required to be elsewhere.’
      • ‘That same smell; the smell of minced herbs and risen bread and gingersnaps clung close here to the surface.’
      • ‘Instead he clung closer to Stephanie until the quaking had subsided and the hail of debris had ceased.’
      • ‘Keiko went back a step, and clung close to the shelf.’
      • ‘At night, then, the woman Noel would lean over his bed to tuck him in as if he were her own child, and he could feel the memory of Merianna clinging close to her skin as well.’
      • ‘We clung close together, but far apart enough to steer clear of the torch and so we could easily draw our weapons.’
      hold on to, clutch, grip, grasp, clasp, attach oneself to, hang on to, hold tightly, clench
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    3. 1.3 Remain persistently or stubbornly faithful to.
      ‘she clung resolutely to her convictions’
      • ‘Those who remain cling tenaciously to what their forebears laid down, but retreat into the shade.’
      • ‘He raised his eyes to the heavens, clinging desperately to the only remaining physical reminder of his past life.’
      • ‘The Truth could not be revealed to those who clung stubbornly to material values and had not abandoned themselves entirely to the Spiritual World.’
      • ‘We cling as close as possible to normal American rituals.’
      • ‘Too many cling stubbornly to the notion that mental illness is a ‘White thing’ that just doesn't happen to them.’
      • ‘I was the one still clinging, stubbornly and defiantly, to an expectation of miracles.’
      • ‘Australian record companies appear to cling stubbornly to traditional business models.’
      • ‘And until very recently, she had clung firmly to that view.’
      • ‘Hanson herself, meanwhile, clings to a tight-lipped refusal to comment on her private life.’
      • ‘Their managers clung stubbornly to the narrow definition of their enterprise: they were in the railroad business.’
      • ‘He raised his head slowly, still unable to quash that last desperate hope clinging like a stubborn weed to his thoughts that this might be a mistake.’
      • ‘The present ministerial team at the Ministry of Defence has clung stoically to the traditional line that the negligence verdict was correct.’
      • ‘In trying to stave off this fate of being dated, he has clung desperately to remaining youthful.’
      • ‘He still clings stubbornly to his belief in the omnipotence of science and the grandeur of human ambition.’
      • ‘Yet despite all these obvious hardships, I have strived to remain resilient and I still cling fervently to the hope that one day my country shall rise again.’
      • ‘Politicians have clung long and hard to the convenient concept of health promotion, which asserts that illness is primarily self inflicted.’
      • ‘And in clinging so faithfully to the past, he has stirred uncomfortable complaints that he is propelling his country towards an old-fashioned constitutional crisis.’
      • ‘People cling stubbornly to the worldview that sustains them.’
      adhere to, hold to, stick to, stand by, abide by, remain attached to, remain devoted to, cherish, be loyal to, be faithful to, remain true to, have faith in, swear by
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    4. 1.4 Be overly dependent on someone emotionally.
      ‘you are clinging to him for security’
      • ‘So it was to their mother, Margaret Marie Bragg, that the Bragg boys clung for emotional and physical nurturing.’
      • ‘‘I missed you too, but don't cling child,’ advised her grandma, ‘who's your friend?’’
      • ‘If they have to cope with the loss of their friends, teachers and even parents, they will cling physically and emotionally to the remaining adults and carers in their lives.’
      • ‘I would cling closely to my mother and beg to go home if we encountered a sixties-era bohemian in the grocery store.’
      • ‘She must cling still closer to him, echo faithfully his individuality, lose herself in him.’


  • A clingstone peach.

    • ‘He used to cavort with her in stairwells and find inventive ways to eat cling peaches.’
    • ‘Edith, a shopping cart, a can of cling peaches in heavy syrup, and a stranger's car don't mix.’
    • ‘It's more your baby potatoes, peas, cling peaches etc.’
    • ‘I saw a shadow, looked up, Del monte cling peaches coming right on my head.’


Old English clingan ‘stick together’, of Germanic origin; related to Middle Dutch klingen ‘adhere’, Middle High German klingen ‘climb’, also to clench.