verb (used without object), writhed, writh·ing.

to twist the body about, or squirm, as in pain, violent effort, etc.
to shrink mentally, as in acute discomfort.

verb (used with object), writhed, writh·ing.

to twist or bend out of shape or position; distort; contort.
to twist (oneself, the body, etc.) about, as in pain.


a writhing movement; a twisting of the body, as in pain.

Origin of writhe

before 900; Middle English writhen (v.), Old English wrīthan to twist, wind; cognate with Old Norse rītha to knit, twist; akin to wreath, wry
Related formswrith·er, nounwrith·ing·ly, adverb
Can be confusedwraith wreath wreathe writhe

Synonyms for writhe

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

Examples from the Web for writhe

Contemporary Examples of writhe

Historical Examples of writhe

  • Is it that he might writhe in the nightmare, or suffer agony from cramps?

  • They began to writhe about his limbs, but drew no sound to vie with their crackling.

  • Somehow it all made me writhe, agitated me so that I could hardly keep my seat.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • Writhe away or not as you please,” thought the poor man, “but pay me my copeck!

    Russian Fairy Tales

    W. R. S. Ralston

  • As he spoke the psychic began to toss and writhe and moan pitifully.

    The Shadow World

    Hamlin Garland

British Dictionary definitions for writhe



to twist or squirm in or as if in pain
(intr) to move with such motions
(intr) to suffer acutely from embarrassment, revulsion, etc


the act or an instance of writhing
Derived Formswrither, noun

Word Origin for writhe

Old English wrīthan; related to Old High German rīdan, Old Norse rītha. See wrath, wreath, wrist, wroth
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 writhe

Old English wriðan "to twist or bend," earlier "to bind or fetter," from Proto-Germanic *writhanan (cf. North Frisian wrial, Old High German ridan, Old Norse riða, Middle Swedish vriþa, Middle Danish vride), from PIE *wreit- "to turn, bend" (see wreath). Related: Writhed; writhing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper