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 into 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, it twists or winds off course, often toward catastrophe. Wry can mean "bent or twisted" but usually implies clever, ironic humor. These days, 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.
Kelly watched the earthworm writhe across the driveway and toward the garden.
"When the coast is clear, start peeling off your wetsuit. This is easier said than done because sweat-soaked neoprene clings to your flesh like a second skin. So, as you writhe and squirm to free yourself, think of a beautiful butterfly emerging from its chrysalis." — Irv Oslin, The Ashland (Ohio) Times-Gazette, 21 Feb. 2019
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
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