General English


  • noun movement of the ball in the air or off the pitch; swing or break
    Citation ‘His delivery was fast under-hand, and he had a good deal of curl from leg’ (Pullin 1900)
    Citation ‘I have not been able to discover, any more than the bowlers themselves, why or how curl in the air takes place’ (Ranjitsinhji 1897)
  • verb (of the ball) to change direction by moving in the air or off the pitch; swing or break
    Citation ‘He [Lamborn] was once bowling against the Duke of Dorset, and, delivering his ball straight to the wicket, it curled in, and missed the Duke’s leg-stump by a hair’s breadth’ (Nyren 1833 in HM)
    Citation ‘It is a well-known fact that a new ball will invariably curl more than one which has had thirty or forty runs scored off it’ (Warner 1934)


  • noun a measurement of the amount by which paper curls in damp conditions


  • noun a weight training exercise in which a weight held in the hand or hands is lifted by curling the forearm towards the upper arm

Origin & History of “curl”

Curl seems to have been borrowed from middle Dutch krul ‘curly’, and indeed the original English forms of the word were crolle and crulle. The present-day form arose in the 15th century by a process known as metathesis, whereby the sounds r and u were transposed. The Middle Dutch word came from a Germanic *krusl-, source also of German kraus ‘curly’. modern Dutch krul, meanwhile, has given English cruller ‘small cake of twisted shape’ (19th c.).