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[rahyth] /raɪð/
verb (used without object), writhed, writhing.
to twist the body about, or squirm, as in pain, violent effort, etc.
to shrink mentally, as in acute discomfort.
verb (used with object), writhed, writhing.
to twist or bend out of shape or position; distort; contort.
to twist (oneself, the body, etc.) about, as in pain.
a writhing movement; a twisting of the body, as in pain.
Origin of writhe
before 900; Middle English writhen (v.), Old English wrīthan to twist, wind; cognate with Old Norse rītha to knit, twist; akin to wreath, wry
Related forms
writher, noun
writhingly, adverb
Can be confused
wraith, wreath, wreathe, writhe.
1. thresh, flail, contort, wriggle. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for writhe
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His features seemed to writhe and knot and assume in as many moments a dozen different aspects.

    Cleek, the Master Detective Thomas W. Hanshew
  • In mid-air it seemed to writhe and try to change the direction of its leap.

  • He was supremely unaware of the coldness that made Tommy writhe in impotent rebellion.

    The Lamp in the Desert Ethel M. Dell
  • Cunningham had made his bed of horsehair; let him twist and writhe upon it.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • So she took their taunts in silence; and all her struggle was not to let them see their power to make her writhe within.

  • For a moment it was still, and then, as I muttered, the rod slowly began to writhe.

    Cleopatra H. Rider Haggard
  • Now, take my advice: the pin is in, don't worry if he writhe on it a little bit!

  • Some of them writhe in a manner so suggestive as to give you the itch.

    Nights in London Thomas Burke
  • A man stabbed to the heart makes no outcry, he does not even moan or writhe.

    The Spanish Brothers Deborah Alcock
British Dictionary definitions for writhe


to twist or squirm in or as if in pain
(intransitive) to move with such motions
(intransitive) to suffer acutely from embarrassment, revulsion, etc
the act or an instance of writhing
Derived Forms
writher, noun
Word Origin
Old English wrīthan; related to Old High German rīdan, Old Norse rītha. See wrath, wreath, wrist, wroth
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 writhe

Old English wriðan "to twist or bend," earlier "to bind or fetter," from Proto-Germanic *writhanan (cf. North Frisian wrial, Old High German ridan, Old Norse riða, Middle Swedish vriþa, Middle Danish vride), from PIE *wreit- "to turn, bend" (see wreath). Related: Writhed; writhing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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