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1. To become tangled. I store each strand of Christmas lights in a separate bag so they don't all tangle up.
2. To entangle or ensnare someone or something in something. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "tangle" and "up," and the phrase is often followed by "in (something)." You have so many knots that I can't help but tangle the brush up in your hair. Spiders try to tangle up their prey in their webs.
3. To involve or entrap oneself or someone in something, such as an issue, problem, or scandal. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "tangle" and "up," and the phrase is often followed by "in/with (something)." The best politicians choose their battles wisely and avoid becoming too tangled up in petty debates. My brother has tangled me up with a number of lawsuits to keep me from accessing our late father's estate.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
tangle someone or something up
to entangle someone or something. Please don't tangle me up in your ropes. I tangled up my feet in the cords on the floor.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. To mix something together or intertwine it in a confused mass; snarl something: I accidentally tangled that rope up with the others. You've tangled up all the paper clips and now I can't separate them. The telephone cord is tangled up in a knot.
2. To catch and hold something in or as if in a net; entrap something: The children tangled the kite up in the branches. I tangled up the fishing lure as I was pulling it through the weeds. A dolphin became tangled up in the fishing net.
3. To involve someone in awkward or unsavory circumstances. Used chiefly in the passive: How did a good kid like you get tangled up with criminals? No politician would want to be tangled up in this sordid affair.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.