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[with -erz] /ˈwɪð ərz/
noun, (used with a plural verb)
the highest part of the back at the base of the neck of a horse, cow, sheep, etc.
wring one's withers, to cause one anxiety or trouble:
The long involved lawsuit is wringing his withers.
Origin of withers
1535-45; origin uncertain


[with -er] /ˈwɪð ər/
verb (used without object)
to shrivel; fade; decay:
The grapes had withered on the vine.
to lose the freshness of youth, as from age (often followed by away).
verb (used with object)
to make flaccid, shrunken, or dry, as from loss of moisture; cause to lose freshness, bloom, vigor, etc.:
The drought withered the buds.
to affect harmfully:
Reputations were withered by the scandal.
to abash, as by a scathing glance:
a look that withered him.
1250-1300; Middle English, perhaps variant of weather (v.)
Related forms
witheredness, noun
witherer, noun
witheringly, adverb
nonwithering, adjective
overwithered, adjective
unwithered, adjective
unwithering, adjective
Can be confused
weather, whether, whither, wither (see synonym study at the current entry)
whither, wither.
1. wrinkle, shrink, dry, decline, languish, droop, waste. Wither, shrivel imply a shrinking, wilting, and wrinkling. Wither (of plants and flowers) is to dry up, shrink, wilt, fade, whether as a natural process or as the result of exposure to excessive heat or drought: Plants withered in the hot sun. Shrivel, used of thin, flat objects and substances, such as leaves, the skin, etc., means to curl, roll up, become wrinkled: The leaves shrivel in cold weather. Paper shrivels in fire. 5. humiliate, shame.


[with -er] /ˈwɪð ər/
George, 1588–1667, English poet and pamphleteer.
Also, Withers
[with -erz] /ˈwɪð ərz/ (Show IPA)
. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for withers
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I shall be at home to nobody, withers, this afternoon, even if the Prince of Wales came and sat on my doorstep again.

    Miss Mapp Edward Frederic Benson
  • Their height, at the withers, was about ten hands and a half.

  • If you pluck it it withers before you can get it home to put in water and its jewels shrivel to nothing on the way.

    Old Plymouth Trails Winthrop Packard
  • The crest (T) is the upper part of the neck, extending from the withers to the ears.

    The Horsewoman Alice M. Hayes
  • But seeing Mr. withers coming towards him, as if to speak, he turned back to meet him.

  • Set them side by side in moist earth and notice which withers.

    Ontario Teachers' Manuals: Nature Study Ontario Ministry of Education
  • Her neck rose from the withers to the head in perfect curvature, hard, devoid of fat, and well cut up under the chops.

  • It should be drawn back only far enough to hold the saddle from the withers.

    The Prairie Traveler Randolph Marcy
  • withers took up the task of getting supper where Joe had been made to leave it.

    The Rainbow Trail Zane Grey
British Dictionary definitions for withers


plural noun
the highest part of the back of a horse, behind the neck between the shoulders
Word Origin
C16: short for widersones, from widerwith + -sones, perhaps variant of sinew; related to German Widerrist, Old English withre resistance


(intransitive) (esp of a plant) to droop, wilt, or shrivel up
(intransitive) often foll by away. to fade or waste: all hope withered away
(intransitive) to decay, decline, or disintegrate
(transitive) to cause to wilt, fade, or lose vitality
(transitive) to abash, esp with a scornful look
(transitive) to harm or damage
Derived Forms
withered, adjective
witherer, noun
withering, adjective
witheringly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: perhaps variant of weather (vb); related to German verwittern to decay
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 withers

1570s, probably from a dialectal survival of Old English wiðer "against, contrary, opposite" (see with) + plural suffix. Possibly so called because the withers are the parts of the animal that oppose the load. Cf. German Widerrist "withers," from wider "against" + Rist "wrist."



1530s, alteration of Middle English wydderen "dry up, shrivel" (c.1300), apparently a differentiated and special use of wederen "to expose to weather" (see weather). Cf. German verwittern "to become weather-beaten," from Witter "weather."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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