Definition of screw something up in US English:

screw something up

phrasal verb

  • 1Tense the muscles of one's face or around one's eyes, typically so as to register an emotion or because of bright light.

    • ‘Squint your eyes, screw up your face and study the glossy frames and you'll find them fascinating.’
    • ‘Margaret listens quietly to our opinions, then screws up her face, deep in thought.’
    • ‘She just screwed up her face like she was about to cry and then changed the subject.’
    • ‘His eyes were screwed tight as he hissed in pain.’
    • ‘A torch was flicked on and Tam winced in the light, screwing up his eyes.’
    • ‘I just screwed up my face and waited till he pulled it out.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She looks down, screws up her face and peers at me.’
    • ‘He grasped the stems sweatily, screwing his eyes shut and praying hard.’
    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?’
    • ‘I screwed up my life, and with it I screwed up yours too!’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I sat down and read the orders a couple times to be sure I wouldn't screw anything up.’
    • ‘Well, if only one television program screws this up, it is a reflection on the stupidity and incompetence of its producers and hosts.’
    • ‘Have I done something wrong, did I screw something up?’
    • ‘Clearly, Sherman has rolled the dice, but he knows Glenn can't screw this one up if he wants to play football again.’
    • ‘He's a good friend of mine, and I don't want to screw that up too much.’
    • ‘If you do the steps wrong, you screw it up.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I felt as though I was useless, I just screwed everything up.’
    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’
    • ‘It is worth screwing up your courage and following them, if only for the flowers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The ranger screwed up his courage and decided to look in on Father Goodwin.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I've been trying to screw up the courage to call you ever since.’
    • ‘I was interested, I told the salesman, screwing up my courage - but I'd already seen it cheaper somewhere else.’