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[throh] /θroʊ/
a violent spasm or pang; paroxysm.
a sharp attack of emotion.
  1. any violent convulsion or struggle:
    the throes of battle.
  2. the agony of death.
  3. the pains of childbirth.
Origin of throe
1150-1200; Middle English throwe, alteration of thrawe (-o- from Old English thrōwian to suffer, be in pain), Old English thrawu; cognate with Old Norse thrā (in līkthrā leprosy)
Can be confused
throe, throw.
3a. upheaval, tumult, chaos, turmoil. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for throes
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She loves Russia,—our poor Russia, agonizing in the throes of a new birth; while we—we love her, the woman.

    The Red Symbol John Ironside
  • And everywhere was the shouting and hurry as of a nation in the throes of war.

    Two Thousand Miles Below Charles Willard Diffin
  • It was the time of Leisler's movement, when New York was in the throes of revolution.

  • She covered her face, and rocked to and fro like one in the throes of a deep suffering.

    Tony Butler Charles James Lever
  • It was evident he was in the throes of unexpressed affection.

    Pirate Gold Frederic Jesup Stimson
British Dictionary definitions for throes


plural noun
a condition of violent pangs, pain, or convulsions: death throes
in the throes of, struggling with great effort with: a country in the throes of revolution


(rare) a pang or pain
Word Origin
Old English thrāwu threat; related to Old High German drawa threat, Old Norse thrā desire, thrauka to endure
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for throes



c.1200, throwe "pain, pang of childbirth, agony of death," possibly from Old English þrawan "twist, turn, writhe" (see throw), or altered from Old English þrea (genitive þrawe) "affliction, pang, evil, threat" (related to þrowian "to suffer"), from Proto-Germanic *thrawo (cf. Middle High German dro "threat," German drohen "to threaten"). Modern spelling first recorded 1610s. Related: Throes.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with throes


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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