a. An iron shaft with claws at one end, usually thrown by a rope and used for grasping and holding, especially one for drawing and holding an enemy ship alongside. Also called grapnel, grappling, grappling hook, grappling iron.
b. See grapnel.
2. Any of various grasping devices having hinged tines or jaws that close around an object or load, used especially in lifting or dragging heavy items.
3. The act of grappling.
a. A struggle or contest in which the participants attempt to wrestle with each other by clutching or gripping.
b. A struggle for superiority or dominance.
v. grap·pled, grap·pling, grap·ples
1. To seize and hold with a grapple: grappled the prow of the ship.
2. To seize firmly with the hands: "Jules ... grappled the backpack chained over the back of Izzy's bike and began scrabbling through it" (Bella Bathurst).
1. To hold onto something with a grapple: "The 150-odd ships closed and grappled, initiating the most important naval battle of the Hundred Years' War" (Clifford J. Rogers).
2. To use a grapple or similar device, as for dragging.
a. To wrestle with an opponent by clutching or gripping.
b. To struggle or work hard to deal with something: grappled with their consciences; grapple with the political realities of our time.
[Middle English grapel, from Old French grapil, diminutive of grape, hook; see GRAPE.]
(click for a larger image)grapple
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus