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  1. a wincing or shrinking movement; a slight start.

Origin of wince

1250–1300; Middle English winsen, variant of winchen, wenchen to kick < Anglo-French *wenc(h)ier; Old French guenc(h)ier < Germanic. Cf. wench, winch1
Related formswinc·er, nounwinc·ing·ly, adverbwinc·ing·ness, noun

Synonyms for wince

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Synonym study

1. Wince, recoil, shrink, quail all mean to draw back from what is dangerous, fearsome, difficult, threatening, or unpleasant. Wince suggests an involuntary contraction of the facial features triggered by pain, embarrassment, or a sense of revulsion: to wince as a needle pierces the skin; to wince at coarse language. Recoil denotes a physical movement away from something disgusting or shocking or a similar psychological shutting out or avoidance: to recoil from contact with a slimy surface; to recoil at the squalor and misery of the slum. Shrink may imply a fastidious or scrupulous avoidance of the distasteful or it may suggest cowardly withdrawal from what is feared: to shrink from confessing a crime; to shrink from going into battle. Quail suggests a loss of heart or courage in the face of danger or difficulty; it sometimes suggests trembling or other manifestations of physical disturbance: to quail before an angry mob.


[wins] Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for wince

Contemporary Examples of wince

Historical Examples of wince

  • Because she saw him wince when she mentioned Christine, her ill temper increased.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • To talk to this woman of her mother made her wince, but it had to be done.

  • That ball grazed her tail, but she is too old a soldier to wince at trifles.

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • How the friends of darkness, how the demons must wince and tremble.

  • He talked of renunciation, but it was with an anguish so keen as to make me wince for him who felt it.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

British Dictionary definitions for wince


  1. (intr) to start slightly, as with sudden pain; flinch
  1. the act of wincing
Derived Formswincer, noun

Word Origin for wince

C18 (earlier (C13) meaning: to kick): via Old French wencier, guenchir to avoid, from Germanic; compare Old Saxon wenkian, Old High German wenken


  1. a roller for transferring pieces of cloth between dyeing vats

Word Origin for wince

C17: variant of winch
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 wince

early 13c., winch, probably from Old North French *wenchier (in Old French guenchir "to turn aside, avoid"), from Frankish *wenkjan, from Proto-Germanic *wankjan (cf. Old High German wankon "to stagger, totter," Old Norse vakka "to stray, hover;" see wink). Originally of horses. Modern form is attested from late 13c. Related: Winced; wincing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper