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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for writhe
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Is it that he might writhe in the nightmare, or suffer agony from cramps?

  • They began to writhe about his limbs, but drew no sound to vie with their crackling.

  • Somehow it all made me writhe, agitated me so that I could hardly keep my seat.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
  • writhe away or not as you please,” thought the poor man, “but pay me my copeck!

    Russian Fairy Tales W. R. S. Ralston
  • As he spoke the psychic began to toss and writhe and moan pitifully.

    The Shadow World

    Hamlin Garland
  • Andrea might writhe and supplicate and despair as he would—in vain.

    The Child of Pleasure Gabriele D'Annunzio
  • He watched it blister and writhe as though it had been a living thing.

  • I saw the beast, which was perched upon the bowl, writhe and twist.

  • In mid-air it seemed to writhe and try to change the direction of its leap.

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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