Definition of “spiral” - English Dictionary

“spiral” in British English

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spiralnoun [ C ]

uk /ˈspaɪə.rəl/ us /ˈspaɪr.əl/

a shape made up of curves, each one above or wider than the one before:

A corkscrew is spiral-shaped.
downward spiral

C2 a situation in which a price, etc. becomes lower, or a situation gets worse and is difficult to control because one bad event causes another:

This year's downward spiral of house prices has depressed the market.
We have to avoid the downward spiral in which unemployment leads to homelessness and then to crime.

More examples

spiralverb [ I usually + adv/prep ]

uk /ˈspaɪə.rəl/ us /ˈspaɪr.əl/ -ll- or US usually -l-

to move in a spiral:

With one wing damaged, the model airplane spiralled downwards.

If costs, prices, etc. spiral, they increase faster and faster:

Spiralling costs have squeezed profits.
spiral downwards

(of prices, etc.) to become less, at a faster and faster rate

If a situation spirals, it quickly gets worse in a way that becomes more and more difficult to control:

Violence in the country is threatening to spiral out of control.
He spiralled into a drug addiction that cost him his life.

spiraladjective [ before noun ]

uk /ˈspaɪə.rəl/ us /ˈspaɪr.əl/

shaped in a series of curves, each one above or wider than the one before:

a spiral staircase
a spiral galaxy

(Definition of “spiral” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

“spiral” in American English

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spiralnoun [ C ]

us /ˈspɑɪ·rəl/

a shape of a continuous, curving line that forms circles around a center point:

A corkscrew is made in a spiral.
fig. Roy was bitter about the downward spiral of his life (= it was becoming continuously worse).
spiral
adjective [ not gradable ] us /ˈspɑɪ·rəl/

spiralverb [ I ]

us /ˈspɑɪ·rəl/ -l-, -ll-

to move in a spiral:

The engine quit, and my beautiful model airplane spiraled downward.
High winds spiraled around the storm center.

(Definition of “spiral” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

“spiral” in Business English

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spiralnoun [ C ]

uk /ˈspaɪərəl/ us

a situation in which prices, levels, rates, etc. go down, or in which a situation gets worse and is difficult to control because one bad event causes another:

a spiral of sth The world's two biggest economies are caught in a spiral of borrowing.
This year's downward spiral of house prices has depressed the market.
My former colleagues have been stuck in a spiral that continues to say, the only way we can continue our profit margins is to cut good journalism, and that is to me a death spiral.

spiralverb [ I, usually + adv/prep ]

uk /ˈspaɪərəl/ us UK -ll-, US -l-

also spiral up/upward(s) if costs, prices, etc. spiral, they increase quickly:

Costs spiral, and the patient is subjected to tests they don't need.
Inflation began to spiral upward.
spiral (from sth) to sth The country's foreign debt spiralled from $840 million to $2.6 billion.
spiral downwards

if costs, prices, etc. spiral downwards, they go down quickly:

Stock prices have spiralled downwards for the past two weeks.
spiral out of control

if a situation spirals out of control, it becomes impossible to control because one bad event causes another:

The project spiraled out of control, running $300 million over budget.
There is a great deal of evidence that internet gambling is spiralling rapidly out of control.
spiralling
US spiraling

spiralling fuel costs

(Definition of “spiral” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)