To crank is to turn or rotate something using a handle or lever. The earliest automobiles required drivers to crank the engine before they could climb in and start driving.

You might crank a paper towel machine in a restroom to unspool the towels, or crank a music box to start it up — in either case, you're turning a handle, which is also called a crank. You can also say that you crank up the engine when you start your car, even though you're not literally turning or winding anything. A completely different kind of crank is a grouchy, opinionated person. This last meaning comes from cranky.

Definitions of crank
  1. verb
    rotate with a crank
    synonyms: crank up
    see moresee less
    type of:
    circumvolve, rotate
    cause to turn on an axis or center
  2. verb
    fasten with a crank
    see moresee less
    type of:
    fasten, fix, secure
    cause to be firmly attached
  3. verb
    start by cranking
    crank up the engine”
    synonyms: crank up
    see moresee less
    type of:
    start, start up
    get going or set in motion
  4. verb
    bend into the shape of a crank
    see moresee less
    type of:
    bend, deform, flex, turn, twist
    cause (a plastic object) to assume a crooked or angular form
  5. verb
    travel along a zigzag path
    synonyms: zigzag
    see moresee less
    type of:
    go, locomote, move, travel
    change location; move, travel, or proceed, also metaphorically
  6. noun
    a hand tool consisting of a rotating shaft with parallel handle
    synonyms: starter
    see moresee less
    crank handle, starting handle
    crank used to start an engine
    type of:
    hand tool
    a tool used with workers' hands
  7. noun
    a bad-tempered person
    synonyms: churl, crosspatch, grouch, grump
    see moresee less
    show 5 types...
    hide 5 types...
    crab, crabby person
    a quarrelsome grouch
    fire-eater, hothead
    a belligerent grouch
    misanthrope, misanthropist
    someone who dislikes people in general
    misogynist, woman hater
    a misanthrope who dislikes women in particular
    a misanthrope who dislikes men in particular
    type of:
    disagreeable person, unpleasant person
    a person who is not pleasant or agreeable
  8. noun
    a whimsically eccentric person
    synonyms: crackpot, fruitcake, nut, nut case, screwball
    see moresee less
    type of:
    eccentric, eccentric person, flake, geek, oddball
    a person with an unusual or odd personality
  9. noun
    an amphetamine derivative (trade name Methedrine) used in the form of a crystalline hydrochloride; used as a stimulant to the nervous system and as an appetite suppressant
    see moresee less
    type of:
    controlled substance
    a drug or chemical substance whose possession and use are controlled by law
  10. adjective
    (used of boats) inclined to heel over easily under sail
    synonyms: cranky, tender, tippy
    lacking stability or fixity or firmness
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week