from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A cylindrical rod incised with one or more helical or advancing spiral threads, as a lead screw or worm screw.
  • noun The tapped collar or socket that receives this rod.
  • noun A metal pin with incised threads and a broad slotted head that can be driven as a fastener by turning with a screwdriver, especially.
  • noun A tapered and pointed wood screw.
  • noun A cylindrical and flat-tipped machine screw.
  • noun A device having a helical form, such as a corkscrew.
  • noun A propeller.
  • noun A twist or turn, as of a screw.
  • noun A prison guard.
  • noun The turnkey of a jail.
  • noun Vulgar Slang The act or an instance of having sexual intercourse.
  • noun Salary; wages.
  • noun A small paper packet, as of tobacco.
  • noun An old broken-down horse.
  • noun A stingy or crafty bargainer.
  • intransitive verb To drive or tighten (a screw).
  • intransitive verb To fasten, tighten, or attach by means of a screw or similar fastener.
  • intransitive verb To attach (a tapped or threaded fitting or cap) by twisting into place.
  • intransitive verb To rotate (a part) on a threaded axis.
  • intransitive verb To contort (one's face).
  • intransitive verb To treat (someone) unfairly; exploit or cheat.
  • intransitive verb Vulgar Slang To have sexual intercourse with.
  • intransitive verb To turn or twist.
  • intransitive verb To become attached by means of the threads of a screw.
  • intransitive verb To be capable of such attachment.
  • intransitive verb Vulgar Slang To have sexual intercourse.
  • idiom (have a screw loose) To behave in an eccentric or mentally deranged manner.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To turn, move, tighten, fasten, press, or make firm by a screw, or by giving a turn to a screw: apply a screw to, for the purpose of turning, moving, tightening, fastening, or pressing: as, to screw up a bracket; to screw a lock on a door; to screw a press.
  • To turn or cause to turn, as if by the application of a screw; twist.
  • To force; especially, to force by the application of pressure similar to that exerted by the advancing action or motion of a screw; squeeze: sometimes with up or out: as, to screw up one's courage.
  • To press hard upon; oppress as by exactions or vexatious restrictions or conditions.
  • To twist; contort; distort; turn so as to distort.
  • To turn so as to serve for tightening, fastening, etc.: as, a nut that screws to the right or to the left.
  • To have or assume a spiral or twisting motion: as, the ball screwed to the left.
  • To move or advance by means of a screw propeller.
  • To require students to work hard, or subject them to strict examination.
  • noun The hole in which a screw (in sense 2) turns.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English skrewe, from Old French escrove, female screw, nut, perhaps from Medieval Latin scrōfa, from Latin, sow; see sker- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English screw, scrue ("screw"); apparently, despite the difference in meaning, from Old French escroue ("nut, cylindrical socket, screwhole"), of uncertain origin. There is also the Old French escruve ("screw"), from Old Dutch *scrūva ("screw"; whence Middle Dutch schruyve ("screw")), which probably influenced or conflated with the aforementioned resulting in the Middle English word.


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  • Bureau chief Small chided me for using the word screw on the air, which had elicited complaints from the Bible Belt.

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    May 2, 2008