1 of 2


wrig·​gle ˈri-gəl How to pronounce wriggle (audio)
wriggled; wriggling ˈri-g(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce wriggle (audio)

intransitive verb

: to move the body or a bodily part to and fro with short writhing motions like a worm : squirm
: to move or advance by twisting and turning
: to extricate or insinuate oneself or reach a goal as if by wriggling

transitive verb

: to cause to move in short quick contortions
: to introduce, insinuate, or bring into a state or place by or as if by wriggling
wriggly adjective


2 of 2


: a short or quick writhing motion or contortion
: a formation or marking of sinuous design

Examples of wriggle in a Sentence

Verb The children wriggled and squirmed in their chairs. She managed to wriggle free of her ropes. They wriggled out of their wet clothes. I had trouble getting the wriggling fish off my hook. The snake wriggled across the path and went underneath a bush. He was able to wriggle through the narrow opening. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
When a nematode wriggles around a petri dish, what’s going on inside a tiny roundworm’s even tinier brain? Lauren Leffer, Scientific American, 21 Aug. 2023 Meanwhile, the child being held by the first man can be seen wriggling around in his arms. Abigail Adams, Peoplemag, 10 Aug. 2023 These diminutive crustaceans can lie dormant for years until a dose of rain sends them wriggling to the surface, which is why seagulls fly inland from the coast to the high deserts to gorge on them. Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 25 July 2023 Mostly, the Roys wriggle out without too much trouble. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 23 Mar. 2023 Millennia later, the worms, thawed out of the ice, would wriggle again, and demonstrate to scientists that life could be paused — almost indefinitely. Orlando Mayorquin, New York Times, 29 July 2023 Kelly’s beloved dog, an elderly, Pomeranian-long haired Chihuahua mix named Annie Oakley, bounded down the carpeted staircase and wriggled across the linoleum kitchen floor, wagging her tail for attention. Lea Skene, Anchorage Daily News, 12 June 2023 The worms then start wriggling around, eating bacteria in a lab dish and reproducing. Carolyn Y. Johnson, Anchorage Daily News, 27 July 2023 For him, the sport is organized around the solitary rite of catching a wriggling trout and tossing the fish back into the water. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 9 June 2023
Translucent sperm wriggle slowly across a sepia-toned laptop screen. Anna Funk, Discover Magazine, 15 Apr. 2019 While larvae wriggle in their hexagonal cells, Varroa mites are busy sucking their hemolyph, or blood, for sustenance. Carl Engelking, Discover Magazine, 5 June 2015 Toward the end of Wednesday’s semifinal, Morocco was the likelier team to score, until Mbappé got into his favorite wriggle zone, on the edge of the penalty area, and quick-stepped his way through a crowd of defenders. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 17 Dec. 2022 There’s no teen watching for wriggle-through-able holes in the parental-authority net. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 2 Dec. 2022 But the modern members of the animal lineage—millions and millions of species of them that flit and fly and sprint and swim and wriggle and crawl—can all trace their origins to a singular uni-to-multi switch. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 28 Sep. 2022 The team chose a peekytoe crab shape simply for the fun of watching a minuscule robot wriggle in a crab-like fashion, but their three-dimensional printing technique could be used to mimic any animal or shape, the researchers say. Manasee Wagh, Popular Mechanics, 26 May 2022 Just under your skin lie whole aqueous worlds, where trillions of cells spark and beat and wriggle and secrete, doing all the complicated tasks of keeping you alive. Megan Molteni, STAT, 14 May 2022 At the Las Vegas Justice Court, the largest of some 40 courts hearing eviction cases in Nevada, Hearing Master David F. Brown did not allow for much wriggle room. New York Times, 11 Aug. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wriggle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English, from or akin to Middle Low German wriggeln to wriggle; akin to Old English wrigian to turn — more at wry

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1709, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of wriggle was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near wriggle

Cite this Entry

“Wriggle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wriggle. Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
wrig·​gle ˈrig-əl How to pronounce wriggle (audio)
wriggled; wriggling -(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce wriggle (audio)
: to twist or move to and fro like a worm : squirm
wriggle in one's chair
wriggle one's toes
: to move along by twisting and turning
the eel wriggled its way upstream


2 of 2 noun
: a short or quick twisting motion
: a formation or marking having a winding or twisting course or appearance

More from Merriam-Webster on wriggle

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!