American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- v. To twist, as in pain, struggle, or embarrassment.
- v. To move with a twisting or contorted motion.
- v. To suffer acutely.
- v. To cause to twist or squirm; contort.
- n. The act or an instance of writhing; a contortion.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- To turn and twist about; twist out of shape or position; wrench; contort.
- To wrest perversely; wrest; pervert.
- To wrench; wring; extort.
- To move or stir in a twisting or tortuous manner; twist about, as from pain, distress, or stimulation.
- n. A contortion of form or features, as from pain or other emotion; an act of writhing.
- n. The band of a fagot.
- v. transitive To twist, to wring (something).
- v. transitive To contort (a part of the body).
- v. intransitive To twist or contort the body; to be distorted.
- n. knot theory The number of negative crossings subtracted from the number of positive crossings in a knot
GNU Webster's 1913
- v. To twist; to turn; now, usually, to twist or turn so as to distort; to wring.
- v. To wrest; to distort; to pervert.
- v. rare To extort; to wring; to wrest.
- v. To twist or contort the body; to be distorted. Also used figuratively.
- v. to move in a twisting or contorted motion, (especially when struggling)
- Middle English writhen, from Old English wrīþan, from Proto-Germanic *wrīþanan 'to twist, turn' (cf. Old High German rīdan 'to turn', Old Norse ríða 'to wind'), from Proto-Indo-European (compare Lithuanian riēsti 'to unbend, wind, roll'). (Wiktionary)
- Middle English writhen, from Old English wrīthan; see wer-2 in Indo-European roots. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“With a thin writhe of a smile, Collins investigated the insides of her clenched hands to make sure that the hooks were connected.”
“The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a "pitter-patter" sound.”
“In studying a 13th-century scroll where nine scaly dragons writhe through a sepia mist, Mr. Li focused on a spot near the center where the brume twists into a spiral.”
“I haven't blogged lately because I've been so sick all I can do is sleep, throw up, writhe in pain or blow my nose and I pretty much don't want to do anything more complex than play Peggle.”
“The badger will squeal and writhe around, clawing the Man mercilessly as the Man begins to intensify the beating and his repetition.”
“Here we have an near-omnipotent, near-invulnerable, time-traveling walking knife drawer that - if it doesn't turn you into sushi while dodging every weapon that you throw at it - takes you home so it can impale you alive in its front yard where you get to writhe in agony forever while it looks on like the silent mega-badass it is.”
“Rickie had the projector turned on and pointed toward the living room wall, watched the python writhe on the ground.”
“Yoga used to make a Christian nation writhe; now it has become an embodiment of the country's religious and social elasticity.”
“Yoga used to make a Christian nation writhe; now it has become an embodiment of the country s religious and social elasticity.”
“The film, directed by Louie Psihoyos, shows dolphins driven into a cove and stabbed by fishermen on small boats, turning the water red with blood, as the dolphins writhe in agony.”
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...with grateful thanks to telofy (for "cnidarian"), and to the song "Crazy ABC's" by Barenaked Ladies.
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