verb (used without object)

to wriggle or writhe.
to feel or display discomfort or distress, as from reproof, embarrassment, pain, etc.: He squirmed under the judge's questioning.


the act of squirming; a squirming or wriggling movement.

Origin of squirm

First recorded in 1685–95; of expressive orig., perhaps echoing worm
Related formssquirm·er, nounsquirm·ing·ly, adverbun·squirm·ing, adjective

Synonyms for squirm

1. turn, twist.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for squirm

flounder, writhe, twist, agonize, shift, skew, wriggle, squiggle, toss, wind, worm

Examples from the Web for squirm

Contemporary Examples of squirm

Historical Examples of squirm

  • Then it will be our friend the Financial Field's turn to squirm!

  • I wanted to tell you and have the fun of watchin' you squirm.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • The animal continued to squirm but did not offer to come nearer.

  • I tell you I wanted to see him squirm for the honour of the craft.

    Lord Jim

    Joseph Conrad

  • And say, maybe Her Stoutness didn't enjoy watchin' us squirm.

    Shorty McCabe

    Sewell Ford

British Dictionary definitions for squirm


verb (intr)

to move with a wriggling motion; writhe
to feel deep mental discomfort, guilt, embarrassment, etc


a squirming movement
Derived Formssquirmer, nounsquirming, adjectivesquirmingly, adverb

Word Origin for squirm

C17: of imitative origin (perhaps influenced by worm)
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

Word Origin and History for squirm

1690s, originally referring to eels, of unknown origin; sometimes associated with worm or swarm, but perhaps rather imitative. Related: Squirmed; squirming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper