verb (used without object), winced, winc·ing.

to draw back or tense the body, as from pain or from a blow; start; flinch.


a wincing or shrinking movement; a slight start.

Nearby words

  1. win over,
  2. win some, lose some,
  3. win this one for the gipper,
  4. win through,
  5. win-win,
  6. wincey,
  7. winceyette,
  8. winch,
  9. winchell,
  10. winchester

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

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wincing

British Dictionary definitions for wincing




(intr) to start slightly, as with sudden pain; flinch


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




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 wincing



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