I am software engineer in USA (moved from another country). In informal conversations with colleagues I've heard the phrase "cranking out code" (or something similar).

I googled it, and Urban Dictionary says it's

The act of crying and wanking (masturbation)at the same time.

However, "cranking out code" is quite common if you google it.

I'm confused about the usage and don't know if it's safe to use at work, and the meaning of it. Can you please advice if can use it, and the exact meaning.

  • 3
    We may have a difference of opinion, but 37 results is not "quite common". Are you sure you're not hearing "cranking out code"?
    – Laurel
    Oct 8, 2018 at 17:28
  • @Laurel maybe it is "cranking out", Google says I have 229 results Oct 8, 2018 at 17:29
  • 1
    Whatever the proposition, you should assume the meaning is that the person is figuratively turning the crank that causes code to be generated. The “cranking on” likeky comes from a misapplication of “cranking/wrenching on” a car
    – Jim
    Oct 8, 2018 at 17:32
  • 3
    You should probably also never believe any Urban Dictionary definition unless it is absolutely clear from context that the speaker intended a sexual, scatological, or blasphemous reference (since that covers about 99% of the content on UD).
    – Hellion
    Oct 8, 2018 at 17:40
  • Fixed: "cranking on" -> "cranking out" Oct 8, 2018 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


I am a software developer and hear this phrase used a lot. I myself have used it. To put it simply, the verb "crank" has a much more mundane meaning which is rooted in the noun "crank", a simple mechanism that operates by turning over repeatedly. To "crank" something means to manually turn it over again and again (like cranking a winch or pulley system to lift something). It's an extremely repetitive and menial task.

Hence, to "crank out code" means to do large volumes of repetitive code writing. But I've also seen it used, and used it myself, to describe any large amount of work done that feels especially menial.


Urban Dictionary is a worthless reference. If you find it funny, then it can be a source of amusement, otherwise it's a total waste of time.

"Crank out" means to produce without much thought or concern for quality but with some regularity, as if by turning the crank on some old and unreliable piece of machinery. It has nothing to do with "wank".

  • I wouldn't call UD "worthless", but one must bear in mind that it is even more "wiki" than Wikipedia, and so one must take the contents with a grain of salt. It's useful if you want to check the meaning of a slang term.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 8, 2018 at 18:34
  • @HotLicks -- if you hear a slang word and look it up on UD, yes, the actual meaning is probably listed, so if you have enough context to distinguish the right definition from the “joke” definitions and all the idiosyncratic definitions and the trash, it can be of some value — but the signal-to-noise ratio is tiny. Consider the recent Kavanaugh kerfuffle. When Wikipedia was vandalized, it was a big deal. It made the national news; one of the perpetrators was fired and may go to jail. I haven't even checked, but I’m sure a bunch of partisan nonsense has been added and nobody cares. Oct 8, 2018 at 18:39

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