\ ˈrīt͟h How to pronounce writhe (audio) \
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 An awkward quiet descends as the women writhe through the air. David Howard, Popular Mechanics, "How Kim Kardashian's Dad Came Back to Life in a Terrifying Hologram," 30 Oct. 2020 That feeling — of a writhing text, something almost escaping its own language — became inspiration for Tropos, a quintet of young improvisers and composers who first met as students at New England Conservatory. Jon Pareles, New York Times, "Aventura’s Stripped-Down Livestream, and 10 More New Songs," 15 May 2020 On the far end of the facility, prone on a training table, was a player writhing in pain, with a towel over his head, obscuring his face. Dallas News, "Potential ramifications of Luka Doncic’s ankle injury, including his now questionable All-Star Game status," 31 Jan. 2020 Images from the scene showed several firetrucks and more than a dozen ambulances surrounding the badly damaged structure, which was completely blackened and writhed on one side. NBC News, "South Korea construction fire kills at least 38," 29 Apr. 2020 Villeneuve is considered the sprawling desert facility’s most technical course — a writhing snake’s nest of kinks, double-apex turns and long sweepers. cleveland, "Mid-engine 2020 Corvette C8 Stingray shines on and off track," 7 Mar. 2020 Equally worrisome are the implications of such a move along the border, particularly in terms of health care, with communities of asylum-seekers already writhing under the weight of overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. Miriam Jordan, BostonGlobe.com, "A closed border, dashed hopes, and a looming disaster," 22 Mar. 2020 The Fourth King of Hell’’ sitting in judgement over souls of the dead who writhe in a basin of boiling water, is part of a series of 10, nine of which had already been acquired by other museums. Steven Litt, cleveland, "Cleveland Museum of Art acquires rare Korean painting; reminds visitors of special holiday hours," 22 Dec. 2019 Where tires had worn the ice down to the black asphalt, the wind of the passing cars was blowing snow in writhing snakes that the headlights caught, making them glow. Lauren Groff, The Atlantic, "Birdie," 14 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for writhe Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Writhe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/writhe. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for writhe



English Language Learners Definition of writhe

: to twist your body from side to side


\ ˈrīt͟h How to pronounce writhe (audio) \
writhed; writhing

Kids Definition of writhe

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

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