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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
  • The sight of him writhing had caused the other doctors and nurses on the ward to panic.
  • Howling, she grabs fistfuls of air, writhing in a blur of blue latex and spangled fur.
  • At last, to the delight of the crowd, the limp bird is tossed into the writhing tiger pit.
  • Moments later, he starts gagging and writhing in pain.
  • The diver awakens, bleeding from his nose and mouth, and lies convulsed in pain and writhing on the shore.
  • She wears a necklace of lotus blossoms and a choker of writhing snakes.
  • To the audience, the slow writhing of the dangling bodies was a form of entertainment-and a warning to anyone considering piracy.
  • The chorus loiters in modern dress in scaffolding to the rear and writhing dancers fill the church.
  • He was still alive but nearly inert, writhing halfheartedly.
  • With his left arm, he tried to hold the writhing lion in a headlock.
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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