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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 writhes
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Hamersley writhes as he listens, the red spot on his cheek spreading and flushing redder.

    The Lone Ranche Captain Mayne Reid
  • How he writhes his back, curving it like some monstrous catamount.

  • Miranda writhes till the cords fastening his wrists almost cut through the skin.

    The Lone Ranche Captain Mayne Reid
  • She writhes, she curses; her fear and fury are horrible to behold.

    Dangerous Ground Lawrence L. Lynch
  • I can see that he writhes in torment; and his face—what would his face be?

    Nicanor - Teller of Tales C. Bryson Taylor
  • Even so the Japanese wrestler, who has got a certainty, is temperance itself towards his victim, who writhes in vain.

    A Likely Story William De Morgan
  • Why, every trunk is a weird fantastic subject in itself, and every branch as it twists and writhes in titanic agonies.

  • His sister Diana taunts him with cowardice, so Juno grips her by the wrist and boxes her ears till she writhes again.

  • (He vainly tries to snap his bonds and writhes convulsively, crying) Brothers!

    The Iron Pincers Eugne Sue
British Dictionary definitions for writhes


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 writhes



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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