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

Related Words for writhing

squirming, wiggly

Examples from the Web for writhing

Contemporary Examples of writhing

Historical Examples of writhing

  • They struggled in this manner with a rattling in their throats, writhing in the horror of their caresses.

    Therese Raquin

    Emile Zola

  • "We've thought of you often," said Mr. Mudge, writhing his harsh features into a smile.

  • But it was only the Serpent-son of Loki writhing in his wrath.

    Told by the Northmen:

    E. M. [Ethel Mary] Wilmot-Buxton

  • Writhing in suppressed agony, the man fell imploringly on his knees.

  • Then he came close, catching in his strong grasp her writhing hands.


    Stephen French Whitman

British Dictionary definitions for writhing



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 writhing



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