Green’s Dictionary of Slang

screw up v.

1. to cheat, to defraud; to drive a very hard bargain.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: To Screw one up, to exact upon one, or Squeeze one in a Bargain or Reckoning.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: To screw one up; to exact upon one in a bargain or reckoning.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 Dec. 9/3: One of the banks in Brisbane, well known for its liberality in the screwing up line [etc].

2. to imprison [screw n.1 (2)].

[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 255: If I am ever screwed up within these walls, I hope you will not forget to call and see an old friend.

3. to make trouble, to cause difficulties for.

[UK]C. Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend II 96: However what finally screwed up my stocking altogether gents, was their taking away my gas.
[US]B. Schulberg What Makes Sammy Run? (1992) 216: He says that strike screwed us up good.
[US]J. Thompson Alcoholics (1993) 81: You screwed me up at what you thought would be your last opportunity.
[US]L. Bruce How to Talk Dirty 11: Oh God, the movies really did screw us up.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 151: You won’t have to worry about this guy [...] screwing you up.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘The Second Time Around’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] She’ll screw you up, you mark my words.
[US]J. Wambaugh Golden Orange (1991) 247: I don’t want you screwin me up jist because you gone loopy over some little squeeze.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 24 Sept. 3: He apologised [...] for getting addicted to hard drugs and screwing up the group.
D. Shaw ‘Dead Beard’ at www.asstr.org [Internet] ‘What’s up, Dionne? Don’t you like being screwed the way you’ve screwed up all other mugs who’ve trusted you?’ she sneers.
[UK]V. McDermid Insidious Intent (2018) 121: Most alcoholics [...] screwed up the lives of everybpody who cared about them.

4. to garrotte [SE screw up, to tighten].

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 77: screwing up Choking; garroting. ‘Screw up the bloke, and that will stop his blasted red rag from chanting beef,’ choke the man, and that will prevent him from crying ‘stop thief.’.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 419: Favouring me with a few practical illustrations of his manual dexterity in the performance of such delicate little operations as ‘cross-fanning,’ ‘screwing-up,’ and taking a letter from the inside breast-pocket of my coat.

5. (orig. US) to make a mess, to blunder badly.

[US]J. Weidman I Can Get It For You Wholesale 72: Well, this was the last time Tootsie Maltz would ever have to screw up the works for me.
[UK]H. Brown Walk in Sun 28: If we hang around here any longer we’ll screw up the whole works.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 140: You’re screwing the works up pretty nicely.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 37: You’re about to do something to screw yourself up.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 47: His voice-box screwed up on him a ‘dime’ ago.
[US]R. De Christoforo Grease 91: You really did it this time, huh? [...] you not only screwed up with Sandy again, but you got yourself wired into team tryouts.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 37: Along every step of the way there was ample opportunity to screw up royally.
[US]Source Oct. 154: If you vouch for a player and he or she screws up [...] you’re responsible.
[UK]Guardian G2 20 Jan. 10: If no one takes responsibility for them, of course they are going to screw up.
[UK]in K. Richards Life 285: ‘Stop sniveling, boy. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t screwed up’.
[US]Baltimore Sun (MD) 7 May T11/1: I screwed up.

6. (US) to confuse, to perturb.

[US](con. 1940s) C. Bram Hold Tight (1990) 156: That circus queen was sure one sick woman [...] she was out to screw your head up.

7. to hurt, to put out of order, to destroy.

[US]T. Williams Camino Real Block Twelve: This filing system is screwed up six ways from next Sunday ... File this crap under crap!
[US]G. Swarthout Where the Boys Are 191: If you think I’ll screw up the last two days of my vacation for a stunt as Boy Scout and yo-yo as this, you are stark raving.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 383: I used to like to run [...] but all that pounding up and down screwed up my back.
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 31: Screwed up a shitload of computers, too.

In phrases

screw up (with) (v.)

(US) to get involved with, associated with.

[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 117: Man, when you were fifteen or sixteen years old did you ever think you’d end up as a Hell’s Angel? How did I get screwed up with you guys anyway?