1 : to move or proceed with twists and turns
2 : to twist from or as if from pain or struggling
3 : to suffer keenly
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.
After falling off the ladder, James lay on the ground, writhing in pain.
"Now Revel is trying to attract more people with features such as the 'DigiPit,' a performance space on the gambling floor where acrobats writhe and tumble in front of the people playing on digital gaming machines." - From an article by Adrienne Raphel on The New Yorker's Currency blog, November 25, 2013
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What relative of "writhe" can refer to a decorative arrangement of leaves or flowers in the shape of a circle? The answer is …
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