wrig·gle | \ˈri-gəl \
wriggled; wriggling\ˈri-g(ə-)liŋ \

Definition of wriggle 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to move the body or a bodily part to and fro with short writhing motions like a worm : squirm

2 : to move or advance by twisting and turning

3 : to extricate or insinuate oneself or reach a goal as if by wriggling

transitive verb

1 : to cause to move in short quick contortions

2 : to introduce, insinuate, or bring into a state or place by or as if by wriggling



Definition of wriggle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a short or quick writhing motion or contortion

2 : a formation or marking of sinuous design

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Other Words from wriggle


wriggly \ˈri-g(ə-)lē \ adjective

Examples of wriggle in a Sentence


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The tail then continues to wriggle for several minutes. Dave Taft, New York Times, "The Creepy Magic of the Red-Backed Salamander," 2 May 2018 That was certainly true of the Greek crisis, when Athens tried to wriggle out of reform commitments made in return for a vast bailout and massive debt relief. Simon Nixon, WSJ, "Britain’s Brexit Dilemma: Should It Compromise, or Confront the EU?," 4 July 2018 Live crab from the North wriggle in huge tanks in the fish market. Jane Perlez, New York Times, "A Trump-Kim Deal Could Send China’s Trade With North Korea Soaring," 5 June 2018 Arcadia also left eight runners on the base paths as Beer wriggled out of runners-in-scoring position jams in the third and fifth innings. Andrew J. Campa, latimes.com, "Crescenta Valley baseball hangs on to knock off Arcadia," 9 May 2018 The bug wriggled in her ear on the trip to the hospital. Tamara Lush, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Florida woman has live cockroach removed from her ear: 'I need therapy'," 4 May 2018 In Davie a few of the Rolling Hills sets were turned into kindling and the first floor of the motel where production offices were set up had been flooded, leaving a plague of earthworms wriggling in the carpets. Chris Nashawaty, SI.com, "Inside the Caddyshack Scene That Squashed the Bill Murray-Chevy Chase Beef," 17 Apr. 2018 After the show, my daughter wriggled her way to the front of the scrum at the stage door with her Playbill. Sam Walker, WSJ, "Now on Broadway: SpongeBob ChauvinistPants," 11 July 2018 Crowds jammed shoulder to shoulder watched Houdini wriggle free from a straitjacket while suspended upside down. Mary Carole Mccauley, baltimoresun.com, "Behind the magic of Harry Houdini at the Jewish Museum of Maryland," 29 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

It might be coated with compounds capable of making sperm wriggle in place, keeping them from inseminating a woman’s egg. Zoë Schlanger, Newsweek, "Plantibodies Could Pave the Road to Wellness," 15 Dec. 2014 The dancers, who double as performers and teachers, gyrate in a circle as the alpacas wriggle among them. John Clarke, WSJ, "Dancing Alpacas! Guard Alpacas! Party Alpacas! Breeders Find New Uses After Market Bust," 25 Mar. 2018 God- and state-fearing Although Christians are growing more numerous, the wriggle room allowed to them is shrinking. The Economist, "As China tightens rules on religion, unregistered churches wince," 15 Mar. 2018 Museums in China have barely any wriggle room to question the official line. The Economist, "Memories and hallucinationsThe Opium Wars still shape China’s view of the West," 16 Dec. 2017 On one hand, the country appears to be running out of financial wriggle room. The Economist, "How long can Venezuela avoid default?," 2 Nov. 2017 Through a series of plot wriggles, Grace has the opportunity to hang around in the Oval Office. Josephine Livingstone, New Republic, "What Was Will & Grace?," 27 Sep. 2017 If so, the Ducks will enter the meet -- June 7-10 at Hayward Field -- with wriggle room. Ken Goe, OregonLive.com, "Despite mishaps, UO women still appear to be solid favorites: Oregon track & field rundown," 30 May 2017 Deadpan humor is a slippery creature; miss the tone by just a little, and the potential wriggles away. Neil Genzlinger, New York Times, "Review: In ‘Take Me,’ a Kidnapping Turns Cat-and-Mouse," 3 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wriggle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of wriggle


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


1709, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for wriggle


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

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Learn More about wriggle

Dictionary Entries near wriggle





wriggle out of



Phrases Related to wriggle

wriggle out of

Statistics for wriggle

Last Updated

22 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wriggle

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

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More Definitions for wriggle



English Language Learners Definition of wriggle

: to twist from side to side with small quick movements like a worm

: to move forward by twisting and turning


wrig·gle | \ˈri-gəl \
wriggled; wriggling

Kids Definition of wriggle

1 : to twist or move like a worm : squirm, wiggle

2 : to advance by twisting and turning Her dog … would wriggle under the fence and run about …— Lois Lowry, Number the Stars

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Comments on wriggle

What made you want to look up wriggle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

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