Word of the Day – Crabwise


1: sideways

2: in a sidling or cautiously indirect manner

Did You Know?

There’s no reason to be indirect when explaining the etymology of crabwise—we’ll get right to the point. As you might guess, the meaning of the word is directly related to that sidling sea creature, the crab. If you have visited a beach near the sea, you have probably seen crabs scuttling along, often moving sideways. Though the behaviour is surely above reproach to the crabs themselves, English speakers tend to be suspicious of what comes at them from the side, and the modern meanings of crabwise reflect this suspicion of the crab’s lateral approach. The word crept into English in the early 19th century and has been sidling into our sentences ever since.


“Covered in river scum, hair hanging down his forehead like oily kelp, he found his way to the hold, clambering on hands and knees, inching crabwise over rough-hewn wooden boards, and picking his way past intriguing crates of explorer supplies to find the out-of-view spot he’d settled on during his reconnaissance mission nine days before.” — Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Outside, 24 Jan. 2018

“It’s true that Tito’s actions aren’t really interrogated, and neither are the consequences of raising boys the way Lydia did—and does, with her grandson Alex. That’s a conflict the show is sidling up to crabwise, and I really do wonder what will happen if and when it finally confronts machismo head-on.” — Lili Loofbourow, Slate, 14 Feb. 2019name that thing animal edition

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