[ rahy ]
/ raɪ /
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See synonyms for: wry / wryness on Thesaurus.com

adjective, wri·er, wri·est.
bitterly or disdainfully ironic or amusing: a wry remark.
produced by a distortion or lopsidedness of the facial features: a wry grin.
abnormally bent or turned to one side; contorted; crooked: a wry mouth.
devious in course or purpose; misdirected.
distorted or perverted, as in meaning.
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Origin of wry

First recorded in 1515–25; adjective use of obsolete verb 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”


wry·ly, adverbwry·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does wry mean?

Wry commonly means humorous in a way that’s very “dry,” irreverent, ironic, sarcastic, or sardonic. The sense of word is especially used in the terms wry humor and wry wit.

This sense of wry is a figurative extension of its literal sense, which means crooked, lopsided, contorted, or distorted. It can also mean contrary or perverse.

A wry smile and a wry expression are probably both somewhat contorted and intended to indicate a sense of irony or sarcasm. You might give a wry smile after telling a particularly wry joke (the kind of joke that’s so dry that it’s hard to tell whether it’s a joke).

The related word awry can be used as an adverb form of wry or as an adjective meaning wrong in some way (amiss) or slanted or twisted (askew).

Example: It takes a while to get used to her wry sense of humor, but she’s not as cynical as she sounds.

Where does wry come from?

The first records of the word wry as an adjective come from around the 1520s. It comes from the Old English wrīgian, meaning “to turn”—wry was first used in English as a verb meaning “to twist,” but this sense has since fallen out of use.

The words twisted and warped can be used as synonyms for literal sense of wry and as informal synonyms for its figurative sense—a wry sense of humor is often a twisted or warped one. Wry humor is often very dry, meaning it’s expressed in a straight-faced, matter-of-fact way. That’s why you might need to follow it up with a wry smile to let the person know that you’re making a joke.

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What are some other forms related to wry?

  • wryly (adverb)
  • wryness (noun)

What are some synonyms for wry?

What are some words that share a root or word element with wry

What are some words that often get used in discussing wry?

How is wry used in real life?

Wry is usually used to describe a particular type of ironic humour.



Try using wry!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of wry?

A. twisted
B. straightforward
C. warped
D. crooked

How to use wry in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for wry

/ (raɪ) /

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 forms of wry

wryly, 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