\ˈrīt͟h \
writhed; writhing

Definition of writhe 

transitive verb

1a : to twist into coils or folds

b : to twist so as to distort : wrench

c : to twist (the body or a bodily part) in pain

intransitive verb

1 : to move or proceed with twists and turns writhed to the music

2 : to twist from or as if from pain or struggling

3 : to suffer keenly

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Other Words from writhe

writhe noun

Did You Know?

Writhe wound its way to English from the Old English verb wrīthan ("to twist") and is akin to the Old English verb wrigian ("to turn or go"). Wrigian gave us our words wriggle, awry, and wry. When something wriggles it twists from side to side with quick movements, like an earthworm. When something goes awry, its twists or winds off course, or toward catastrophe. Wry can mean "bent or twisted" but now usually implies clever, ironic humor. Nowadays, writhe often suggests the physical contortions one makes when enduring crippling pain or when trying to extract oneself from a tight grasp (as an animal from a predator's claws). Alternatively, it can imply an emotionally wrenching feeling (as of grief or fear) from which one seeks relief.

Examples of writhe in a Sentence

She lay on the floor, writhing in pain. a nest of writhing snakes

Recent Examples on the Web

Other than praying that Navas would save every shot, the Costa Ricans’ primary strategy appeared to be writhing on the ground. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Brazil Lives Up to Its Reputation, Tops Costa Rica at World Cup," 22 June 2018 The second officer had already caught up and was straddling Patmon, who lay writhing on the pavement. Avi Selk, Washington Post, "A police officer was fired after video showed him running down a fleeing suspect with his car," 3 June 2018 McCullers tagged the bag to ensure an out but writhed in pain thereafter. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros grind out win against Red Sox in series opener," 31 May 2018 The clip shows Delano writhing around a motel room, bathing in roses and praying at an altar to survive her 27th year on Earth, while channeling the grunge-rock sound of iconic groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. Stephen Daw, Billboard, "Adore Delano Prays to Survive Her Late 20s in Moody New '27 Club' Video: Watch," 27 June 2018 Velasquez abandoned his glove, fielded the ball barehanded and then fired to first with his left hand to record the inning-ending out before falling to the ground to writhe in agony. Matt Wyatt, Houston Chronicle, "Phillies' Vince Velasquez injured by comebacker, makes great play anyway," 30 June 2018 Commuters overcome by the gas were left writhing in pain. Washington Post, "Long wait has ended in Japan for execution of cult leader," 6 July 2018 Neymar was starting to showcase his talents but he was left writhing in pain after a tussle with second-half replacement Miguel Layun. Justin Davis, chicagotribune.com, "Stylish Neymar steers Brazil past Mexico and into World Cup quarters," 2 July 2018 In the background of the video, Brown can be heard writhing in pain. Deantae Prince, SI.com, "Khris Middleton on Sterling Brown Arrest: ‘We Saw the Bruises and Marks on His Face’," 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'writhe.' 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 writhe

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for writhe

Middle English, from Old English wrīthan; akin to Old Norse rītha to twist

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Statistics for writhe

Last Updated

6 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for writhe

The first known use of writhe was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for writhe



English Language Learners Definition of writhe

: to twist your body from side to side


\ˈrīt͟h \
writhed; writhing

Kids Definition of writhe

: to twist and turn from side to side She was writhing in pain.

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