General English

Cars & Driving

  • noun an arm incorporating a right angle, often mounted on a shaft
  • verb to turn (the engine) by means of the starter or with a handle



  • noun the penis. A rare usage, mainly heard in the USA among sailors, truckers, ‘hard-hats’ and others in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • noun speed (methedrine or amphetamine), heroin. A drug users’ term from the late 1960s which could also be used to refer to any drug which ‘cranks up’ or re-stimulates a person’s system.
  • noun an irritable, bad-tempered person. The slang noun is derived from the colloquial adjective ‘cranky’ (itself from the Scottish dialect word for bent or distorted).

Origin & History of “crank”

there appears to be a link between the words crank, cringe, and crinkle. they share the meaning element ‘bending’ or ‘curling up’ (which later developed metaphorically into ‘becoming weak or sick’, as in the related German krank ‘ill’), and probably all came from a prehistoric Germanic base *krank-. In Old English the word crank appeared only in the compound crancstœf, the name for a type of implement used by weavers; it is not recorded in isolation until the mid-15th century, when it appears in a Latin-English dictionary as a translation of Latin haustrum ‘winch’. The adjective cranky (18th c.) is no doubt related, but quite how closely is not clear. It may derive from an obsolete thieves’ slang term crank meaning ‘person feigning sickness to gain money’, which may have connections with German krank. modern English crank ‘cranky person’ is a back-formation from the adjective, coined in American English in the 19th century.