adjective, wri·er, wri·est.

produced by a distortion or lopsidedness of the facial features: a wry grin.
abnormally bent or turned to one side; twisted; crooked: a wry mouth.
devious in course or purpose; misdirected.
contrary; perverse.
distorted or perverted, as in meaning.
bitterly or disdainfully ironic or amusing: a wry remark.

Origin of wry

1515–25; adj. use of wry to twist, Middle English wryen, Old English wrīgian to go, strive, tend, swerve; cognate with Dutch wrijgen to twist; akin to Old English wrigels, Latin rīcula veil, Greek rhoikós crooked
Related formswry·ly, adverbwry·ness, noun

Synonyms for wry

2. awry, askew.

Antonyms for wry

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

Examples from the Web for wry

Contemporary Examples of wry

Historical Examples of wry

  • "Oh, I'll apologize," he said with a wry smile of discomfiture.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • "She is very like a boiled sole," answered the Vicomte, with a wry face.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • Once he raised his head for a moment, while his lips were fixed in a wry smile.

    Casanova's Homecoming

    Arthur Schnitzler

  • "I've had vague promises from Wilcox," Sira said, with a wry smile.

    The Martian Cabal

    Roman Frederick Starzl

  • Wilding looked at Trenchard, who shrugged his shoulders and made a wry face.

    Mistress Wilding

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for wry


adjective wrier, wriest, wryer or wryest

twisted, contorted, or askew
(of a facial expression) produced or characterized by contorting of the features, usually indicating dislike
drily humorous; sardonic
warped, misdirected, or perverse
(of words, thoughts, etc) unsuitable or wrong

verb wries, wrying or wried

(tr) to twist or contort
Derived Formswryly, adverbwryness, noun

Word Origin for wry

C16: from dialect wry to twist, from Old English wrīgian to turn; related to Old Frisian wrīgia to bend, Old Norse riga to move, Middle Low German wrīch bent, stubborn
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 wry

1520s, "distorted, somewhat twisted," from obsolete verb wry "to contort, to twist or turn," from Old English wrigian "to turn, bend, move, go," from Proto-Germanic *wrig- (cf. Old Frisian wrigia "to bend," Middle Low German wrich "turned, twisted"), from PIE *wreik- "to turn" (cf. Greek rhoikos "crooked," Lithuanian raisas "paralysed"), from root *wer- (3) "to turn, bend" (see versus). Of words, thoughts, etc., from 1590s. The original sense is preserved in awry.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper