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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 writhing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Well, the last time I was here it was a boiling, writhing lake, and that mound you see yonder was an island in the middle.

  • They struggled in this manner with a rattling in their throats, writhing in the horror of their caresses.

    Therese Raquin Emile Zola
  • It was a writhing, squirming mass of blackened humanity struggling for a mere physical existence, a bare living.

    From the Bottom Up Alexander Irvine
  • "We've thought of you often," said Mr. Mudge, writhing his harsh features into a smile.

    Paul Prescott's Charge Horatio Alger
  • These and others caught sight of the writhing figures, and charged down upon them with loud cries of triumph.

    Penrod and Sam Booth Tarkington
British Dictionary definitions for writhing


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 writhing



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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