noun (used with a plural verb)

the highest part of the back at the base of the neck of a horse, cow, sheep, etc.


    wring one's withers, to cause one anxiety or trouble: The long involved lawsuit is wringing his withers.

Origin of withers

First recorded in 1535–45; origin uncertain



verb (used without object)

to shrivel; fade; decay: The grapes had withered on the vine.
to lose the freshness of youth, as from age (often followed by away).

verb (used with object)

to make flaccid, shrunken, or dry, as from loss of moisture; cause to lose freshness, bloom, vigor, etc.: The drought withered the buds.
to affect harmfully: Reputations were withered by the scandal.
to abash, as by a scathing glance: a look that withered him.

Origin of wither

1250–1300; Middle English, perhaps variant of weather (v.)
Related formswith·ered·ness, nounwith·er·er, nounwith·er·ing·ly, adverbnon·with·er·ing, adjectiveo·ver·with·ered, adjectiveun·with·ered, adjectiveun·with·er·ing, adjective
Can be confusedweather whether whither wither (see synonym study at the current entry)whither wither

Synonyms for wither

1. wrinkle, shrink, dry, decline, languish, droop, waste. Wither, shrivel imply a shrinking, wilting, and wrinkling. Wither (of plants and flowers) is to dry up, shrink, wilt, fade, whether as a natural process or as the result of exposure to excessive heat or drought: Plants withered in the hot sun. Shrivel, used of thin, flat objects and substances, such as leaves, the skin, etc., means to curl, roll up, become wrinkled: The leaves shrivel in cold weather. Paper shrivels in fire. 5. humiliate, shame.




George,1588–1667, English poet and pamphleteer.
Also With·ers [with-erz] /ˈwɪð ərz/.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for withers

Contemporary Examples of withers

Historical Examples of withers

  • The story, often copied from Withers, that Neely was killed by a wolf, is erroneous.

    Chronicles of Border Warfare

    Alexander Scott Withers

  • The story of his final rescue by Logan, is related by Withers below.

    Chronicles of Border Warfare

    Alexander Scott Withers

  • Don't imagine that my withers are wrung by what you say, for I agree with almost every word of it.

  • And Tresler felt himself sliding, saddle and all, over her withers!

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • "You are very good, madam," said Mr. Wilding, and he bowed to the withers of his roan.

    Mistress Wilding

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for withers


pl n

the highest part of the back of a horse, behind the neck between the shoulders

Word Origin for withers

C16: short for widersones, from wider with + -sones, perhaps variant of sinew; related to German Widerrist, Old English withre resistance



(intr) (esp of a plant) to droop, wilt, or shrivel up
(intr often foll by away) to fade or wasteall hope withered away
(intr) to decay, decline, or disintegrate
(tr) to cause to wilt, fade, or lose vitality
(tr) to abash, esp with a scornful look
(tr) to harm or damage
Derived Formswithered, adjectivewitherer, nounwithering, adjectivewitheringly, adverb

Word Origin for wither

C14: perhaps variant of weather (vb); related to German verwittern to decay
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 withers

1570s, probably from a dialectal survival of Old English wiðer "against, contrary, opposite" (see with) + plural suffix. Possibly so called because the withers are the parts of the animal that oppose the load. Cf. German Widerrist "withers," from wider "against" + Rist "wrist."



1530s, alteration of Middle English wydderen "dry up, shrivel" (c.1300), apparently a differentiated and special use of wederen "to expose to weather" (see weather). Cf. German verwittern "to become weather-beaten," from Witter "weather."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper