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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.
tangle with (someone or something)
To fight, argue, or engage in a dispute with someone or something. I wouldn't tangle with them if I were you. They've got so much money that you'll never stand a chance in court. My brother always had a habit of tangling with kids much bigger than him. Trust me, she is not one to tangle with.
See also: tangle
tangled up with (someone or something)
Involved, embroiled, or entrapped with someone or something that proves to be awkward, difficult, or troublesome. I don't know why I ever got tangled up with them—they've only gotten me in trouble! His money is all tangled up with some dodgy investment firm.
A convoluted situation usually caused by some form of deception. The investigation revealed a tangled web of fraud among the members of the political party.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 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.
a tangled web
A tangled web is a situation that is very confused and difficult to understand. This is only one of a series of troubling questions that are emerging from the tangled web of evidence connected to the case. It is sometimes difficult to cut through the tangled web of government information in order to work out the benefits you can claim.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
a tangled weba complex, difficult, and confusing situation or thing.
This phrase comes from Sir Walter Scott 's epic poem Marmion ( 1808 ); ‘O what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!’
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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.