Definition of grapple in US English:



  • 1no object Engage in a close fight or struggle without weapons; wrestle.

    ‘passersby grappled with the man after the knife attack’
    • ‘Holding each other by the elbows like wrestlers ready to grapple, the two men exchanged pleasantries.’
    • ‘And now she has admitted having a catfight with her housekeeper in which both women ended up rolling around on the floor, grappling and screaming.’
    • ‘The two of them then grappled and fell on to the sofa but during the struggle he grabbed the purse and fled.’
    • ‘Here, the players grappled like bears and fought like tigers to stay on their feet.’
    • ‘He was especially skilled in the American style of ‘holding and hitting’ and was capable of frustrating aggressive opponents by repeated clinching and grappling.’
    • ‘The two of them are best pals but that day they were like a couple of schoolboys grappling for the ball and it got a bit heated but afterwards Billy came into the office and we all had a really good laugh about it.’
    • ‘These techniques taught the samurai how to grapple when wearing armor and struggling with an opponent wearing armor.’
    • ‘The fight featured almost as much wrestling as boxing as the two men grappled and pushed, especially in the first few rounds.’
    • ‘The pair grappled and wrestled and Smith then left the matter, only for the brawl to erupt again shortly afterwards.’
    • ‘The Captain closed the distance and the two grappled in a two-handed Indian wrestling stance.’
    • ‘They even punched and grappled and ducked occasionally, fiercely and physically fighting him off in whatever way they could.’
    • ‘The two men fell to the floor and started grappling.’
    • ‘The startled barbarian grappled reflexively, neglecting the weapons that hung at his waist.’
    • ‘The fighters are grappling on the floor, tearing at each other, screaming abuse and growling like animals.’
    • ‘Lydia looked around desperately for another weapon as they grappled on the ground, Boris having the advantage of size but still groggy from the large lump on his skull.’
    • ‘Birds grappled and fell, fighting, to the ground, where we could see and hear them flapping and pecking one another in the leaf litter.’
    • ‘The men lose their temper and start grappling while the crowd boos.’
    • ‘I yelped as we grappled and I struggled for dominance, Jonny got lucky and landed on top of me and since he was heavier and stronger he was pretty much in control.’
    • ‘Within moments, both were grappling and rolling on the ground, struggling for dominance.’
    • ‘I just always loved fighting and grappling, so I got in the ring.’
    wrestle, struggle, tussle
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    1. 1.1with object Seize hold of (someone).
      • ‘I felt the man approach me… He grappled me by the hips.’
      • ‘Ferguson punched Bishop in the face and grappled him to the floor, leaving the drug addict ‘battered and bruised’.’
      • ‘Suddenly she about-faced and grappled him into the undergrowth.’
      • ‘I stepped closer and she tried to run, but I grappled her in time.’
      • ‘On one occasion she told her GP she had been grappled and squeezed by staff.’
      • ‘She stepped to the side, away from him as he made to grapple her from behind, and ducking under his massive arms, moved back quickly until she was behind him instead.’
      • ‘Leigh decided to exact retribution on his teammate's behalf by grappling Gibson to the ground.’
      • ‘He grappled her right wrist and moved it down to the mark.’
      • ‘But that was only for now, for something could easily grapple him against the stone so that others may finish him off.’
      • ‘I would go to my death grappling my foe and cursing the fates with my last breath.’
      • ‘He grabbed the man from behind and tried to grapple him to the ground.’
      • ‘I had no time to even hold or grapple him… - I was then taken to the ground, and I got choked at first.’
      • ‘She had started out wary, in no way wishing to harm the prince, but after he attempted to grapple her, she had released all fury within her.’
      • ‘Willie then dives on Malcom and grapples him to the concrete floor.’
      • ‘His first action was to grapple O'Donovan, a move which earned him a yellow card barely 30 seconds after coming on.’
      seize, grab, lay hold of, take hold of, grip, hold, grasp, clasp, clench, catch hold of, catch, lay one's hands on, get one's hands on
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    2. 1.2grapple with Struggle with or work hard to deal with or overcome (a difficulty or challenge)
      ‘other towns are still grappling with the problem’
      • ‘Every song grapples with issues surrounding the struggle for social justice.’
      • ‘The meaning of life and the struggle for power are aspects our society still grapples with as we enter into the new millennium.’
      • ‘But now, its chief executive faces growing challenges as the retailer grapples with a midlife crisis.’
      • ‘He is already grappling with the difficulty of converting diplomatic rhetoric into actual money.’
      • ‘Each one of them worked up a long essay which, over a couple of terms, grappled with challenging ideas about the texts they had been reading.’
      • ‘The Prime Minister immediately set about grappling with the challenge of investigating the bombings.’
      • ‘This is not a party political issue as all politicians the length and breadth of the country are grappling with this difficult issue.’
      • ‘Reflecting back, our nation has a proud history of grappling with difficult issues.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, it was timely and puts us ahead of the pack in terms of grappling with these difficult issues.’
      • ‘I wanted the film to have a new challenge, to be a new story to grapple with.’
      • ‘In the course of telling aspirin's story Jeffrey engagingly grapples with challenging questions about the nature of innovation and the impact of commercial rivalry on scientific advancement.’
      • ‘When you're infamous, it's hard to grapple with the difficulties of notoriety.’
      • ‘But, with respect, it certainly grapples with some of the difficult matters that this case raises and I bring it to your Honours' attention.’
      • ‘In various jurisdictions the law has grappled with these contending policy considerations using a variety of legal tools.’
      • ‘We need to grapple with these difficulties with an expert panel and work out solutions to them and proceed towards them.’
      • ‘Maybe his struggle to grapple with limited resources is handicapped by his players' indifference.’
      • ‘Earlier engineers had grappled with the difficulties of entering the bay.’
      • ‘The two sides were grappling with very difficult issues that have divided them for over 50 years.’
      • ‘As political leaders and scientists grapple with such enormous challenges, one thing is clear.’
      • ‘Many others grappled with the even more daunting challenges of rural communalism.’
      tackle, confront, address oneself to, face, attend to, attack, get down to
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  • 2archaic with object Seize or hold with a grapnel.

    • ‘This said, they grappled him with more than hundred hooks.’
    • ‘The enemy being three to one grappled him contemptuously with iron hooks, and when the ships were fastened together the battle was fought as though it were on land.’


  • 1An act of grappling.

    • ‘We're quite proud of the grapple system - you're able to do anything from body slams to arm twists and throws - you name it.’
    • ‘These moves are initially used in combos to set up one of four grappling moves: a quick grapple, a strong grapple, a submission grapple or a specialty grapple.’
    • ‘The attacks at your disposal are also limited to a mixture of punches, kicks, grapples, and a few special moves.’
    • ‘These grapple types are performed by pressing up, down, left or right in conjunction with an attack button, making for 16 grapples per wrestler.’
    • ‘Over 40 separate maneuvers are available to The Hulk via his combat system, which consists of a number of punches, jumps, and grapples.’
    • ‘Over time, Kang learns new fighting techniques, including grapples and disarming, as well as stunt-driving maneuvers.’
    • ‘The combat itself flows extremely well - the characters often look like they're dancing as they weave in and out of one another's grapples, roundhouse kicks and uppercuts.’
    1. 1.1informal A wrestling match.
      • ‘A brief grapple ensued, pushing and shoving aplenty all round, and I duly broke free, uninjured and unrobbed.’
      • ‘‘Nice,’ Anna retorted, not fully understanding Leanne's explanation of the grapple but pretending that she did anyway.’
      • ‘As grapple fans the world over know, this only ever works in the arena of World Wrestling Entertainment.’
      • ‘He likes nothing better than locking arms, hooking thumbs and hunkering down for a quick grapple on a table.’
      • ‘I was working my body kicks and my leg kicks and boxing using my knees in the grapple.’
    2. 1.2 An instrument for catching hold of or seizing something; a grappling hook.
      • ‘He attached the grapples to the edge of the pit and flung the ropes into the blackness.’
      • ‘Instead he has to head to the balcony's edge and use the grapple on the second floor railing.’
      • ‘Cargo grapples pulled the large, irregular shaped piece next to the hold.’
      • ‘When chippers and grinders are parked at a landing area, skidders, excavators, or loaders with grapples or rakes bring the wood material to the processing machine, where the end product is piled up for later use.’
      • ‘Men up in the rigging let go of the sails, and men scattered on the main deck raced about grabbing swords, grapples, and preparing to board.’
      • ‘At a project in New Jersey, a One-Line System was used with a conventional, midsize, two-drum cable crane and a grapple to clean out debris from behind a dam.’
      • ‘Installing a grapple to load the trucks is another possibility.’
      • ‘Beyond this, the logger explains that his operators didn't really like dangle grapples, and felt more comfortable using fixed-mount designs.’
      • ‘Today's standard demolition equipment does not include a wrecking ball but rather a hydraulic excavator with such attachments as grapples, shears, hammers, and concrete crushers.’
      • ‘The helicopter uses a scissor-type grapple which tightens on the logs as it lifts them.’
      • ‘Sonia grinned and crossed over to where the men were readying the grapples and cannons.’
      • ‘A combination of factors, including species, pile height and operator preference had led him to look for a new grapple, in this case one that didn't yet exist.’
      • ‘A hydraulic thumb or clamp allows you to grasp rocks, tree stumps, and other oddly shaped objects, while a grapple makes it easy to handle brush and other bulky material.’
      • ‘As any current observer of demolition will tell you, grapples and thumbed buckets are pervasive for cleanup work.’
      • ‘In fact, in specific applications a rotating grapple gives you an advantage for digging in that you can dig straight down, where with a backhoe or an excavator you typically have to dig a trench to get a certain depth.’
      • ‘Among the tools you may select direct from this manufacturer with the excavator are thumbs, grapples, shears, hammers, and crushers.’
      • ‘Batgirl fires the grapple into the night and leaps off the roof, swinging into the darkness.’
      • ‘It's another difficult wreck to shot, lying along the tide with a smooth keel exposed, so the grapple has little to catch on.’
      • ‘Her men dropped planks and launched grapples onto the other ship, securing the two ships together.’
      • ‘He sent up a grapple to the window, and started climbing despite our worries.’


Middle English (as a noun denoting a grappling hook): from Old French grapil, from Provençal, diminutive of grapa ‘hook’, of Germanic origin; related to grape. The verb dates from the mid 16th century.