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

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

Other Words from wriggle


wriggly \ ˈri-​g(ə-​)lē How to pronounce wriggle (audio) \ adjective

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb While other soft-bodied creatures thrash, slither and wriggle like worms, tardigrades are the only soft-bodied animal that can walk. Rachael Lallensack, Smithsonian Magazine, 29 Dec. 2021 Kumiko was charming enough to wriggle her way out of trouble when she was caught sneaking a glass of milk. Susan Orlean, The New Yorker, 28 Dec. 2021 The notion that embryos can wriggle around in the womb or egg isn’t new. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 26 Oct. 2021 Trump, who has always seemed to wriggle away from the usual checks that keep others on the straight-and-narrow, appears to have limited options. Michael D'antonio, CNN, 10 Nov. 2021 The other half of Trump’s war involved raising extreme claims of executive power, executive privilege, executive deference, executive immunity, and whatever other wild interpretation of presidential authority would help him wriggle out of trouble. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 17 Nov. 2021 Another parent messaged me wondering how to wriggle out of a fizzling friendship with a family where the kids have grown apart, but one mom still wants to get together. Kara Baskin, BostonGlobe.com, 5 Nov. 2021 Romantic confessions, angry tirades and vicious rumors fly as lovebugs and hate worms wriggle their way into the hearts of the Bridgeton Middle crew. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 27 Oct. 2021 Behavioral slipups—vaccine refusals, spotty masking during outbreaks—will create cracks for the pathogen to wriggle through. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 21 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 The planned July 19 lifting of most restrictions is being touted by Johnson as a milestone, but the prime minister, characteristically, has left himself some wriggle room. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2021 But the legal decision left the county no wriggle room. John King, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 June 2021 And the cry to do something, anything, will only grow louder, though the paucity of top prospects and aforementioned inflexibility will leave GM Brian Cashman with limited wriggle room. USA Today, 31 May 2021 All but about 15% of the revenue is dedicated by voters, leaving little wriggle room for discretion by the council; for example, about one third of the entire capital budget is dedicated to drainage. Faimon Roberts, NOLA.com, 9 Dec. 2020 Yes, in the name of expanding the playoff field and, perhaps, building in some wriggle room in the event of delays caused by COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolating, the lack of travel means no travel days. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 15 Sep. 2020 Their valley is bare dirt, halved by a wriggle of creek. New York Times, 7 Apr. 2020 Look out for eels’ eyes peeking out from coral castles, and watch the glowing green tentacles of a sea anemone wriggle in the tide. Shannon Sims, New York Times, 11 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for wriggle

Time Traveler

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

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wriggle out of

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Wriggle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wriggle. Accessed 21 Jan. 2022.

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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 How to pronounce wriggle (audio) \
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

More from Merriam-Webster on wriggle

Nglish: Translation of wriggle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wriggle for Arabic Speakers


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