[ throh ]
/ θroʊ /
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See synonyms for: throe / throes on Thesaurus.com

a violent spasm or pang; paroxysm.
a sharp attack of emotion.
  1. any violent convulsion or struggle: the throes of battle.
  2. the agony of death.
  3. the pains of childbirth.
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Origin of throe

1150–1200; Middle English throwe, alteration of thrawe (-o- from Old English thrōwian to suffer, be in pain), Old English thrawu; cognate with Old Norse thrā (in līkthrā leprosy)


throe , throw
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does throe mean?

The word throe refers to a pain, pang, or spasm, but it is very rarely used.

It is almost exclusively used in the plural form throes, which refers to a state or condition of pain or violent convulsions, spasms, or pangs.

Throes is especially associated with situations involving physical or emotional pain or agony, as in the throes of childbirth or the throes of grief. It can also be used in the context of a situation that’s an intense struggle, as in the throes of creation or the throes of revolution. The phrase death throes can refer to the agony of dying or it can be used metaphorically to refer to the final stages of something, as in The terrible reviews of his latest book represent the death throes of his career.

The word throes is commonly used in the phrase in the throes of, meaning in the midst of something intense, especially a painful situation, a struggle, or a crisis, as in We were in the throes of battle when the reinforcements arrived. It can also be used in less serious situations, as in We were in the throes of a movie marathon when the power went out. 

Example: When I’m in the throes of the flu, I barely have the energy to get out of bed.

Where does throe come from?

The first records of the word throe come from the 1100s. The origin of the word isn’t certain. It may come from the Old English verb thrōwian, meaning “to suffer” or “to be in pain,” or from the Old English thrāwu, meaning “threat.”

Throes is typically used in situations involving pain or struggle. It’s especially used in certain phrases, such as death throes, the throes of childbirth, and the throes of passion. It often involves something serious, but it can be used in a somewhat humorous way to exaggerate the seriousness or intensity of a situation.

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What are some other forms related to throe?

What are some synonyms for throe?

What are some words that share a root or word element with throe

What are some words that often get used in discussing throe?


What are some words throe may be commonly confused with?



How is throe used in real life?

Throe is rarely used. The plural form throes is most commonly used in the phrase in the throes. It’s especially applied to negative situations.



Try using throe!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of throe

A. pangs
B. spasm
C. delight
D. pain

How to use throe in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for throe

/ (θrəʊ) /

rare a pang or pain

Word Origin for throe

Old English thrāwu threat; related to Old High German drawa threat, Old Norse thrā desire, thrauka to endure
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with throe


see in the throes.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.