\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 Namely, the team seem to be relishing their time in Russia, as opposed to writhing in the sheer misery of representing their country at a World Cup. SI.com, "Coming Home? 90min England Fans Have Their Say on the Three Lions' Hopes at the World Cup," 30 June 2018 But Velasquez fell to the grass and writhed in pain before leaving the field with his arm being cradled by head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan. Scott Lauber, Philly.com, "Phillies pull out gutsy victory over Nationals to mark midpoint of the season," 30 June 2018 Laines can be seen writhing in pain and yelling for medical attention. Charles Rabin And Martin Vassolo, miamiherald, "Witness says man shot by cops was no threat. Reps say cop heard he was armed over radio | Miami Herald," 24 May 2018 Just moments after he was left writhing on the turf following a crunching challenge from Kenedy, Lacazette exacted revenge. Afp, chicagotribune.com, "Wenger: Newcastle loss 'story of our season'," 15 Apr. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about writhe

Listen to Our Podcast about writhe

Statistics for writhe

Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for writhe

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on writhe

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


an open space surrounded by woods

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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