Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To twist, as in pain, struggle, or embarrassment.
  • intransitive v. To move with a twisting or contorted motion.
  • intransitive v. To suffer acutely.
  • transitive v. To cause to twist or squirm; contort.
  • n. The act or an instance of writhing; a contortion.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To twist, to wring (something).
  • v. To contort (a part of the body).
  • v. To twist or contort the body; to be distorted.
  • n. The number of negative crossings subtracted from the number of positive crossings in a knot

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To twist or contort the body; to be distorted. Also used figuratively.
  • transitive v. To twist; to turn; now, usually, to twist or turn so as to distort; to wring.
  • transitive v. To wrest; to distort; to pervert.
  • transitive v. To extort; to wring; to wrest.

from The 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.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. to move in a twisting or contorted motion, (especially when struggling)

Etymologies

Middle English writhen, from Old English wrīthan; see wer-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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)

Examples

  • With a thin writhe of a smile, Collins investigated the insides of her clenched hands to make sure that the hooks were connected.

    Chapter 25

  • The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a "pitter-patter" sound.

    Boing Boing

  • 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.

    How to Talk Back to a Chinese Master

  • 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.

    Archive 2009-04-01

  • The badger will squeal and writhe around, clawing the Man mercilessly as the Man begins to intensify the beating and his repetition.

    Jennifer Lopez to Star in Overboard Remake | /Film

  • 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.

    MIND MELD: What Are The Coolest Robots in Science Fiction?

  • Rickie had the projector turned on and pointed toward the living room wall, watched the python writhe on the ground.

    Miracles, Inc.

  • Yoga used to make a Christian nation writhe; now it has become an embodiment of the country's religious and social elasticity.

    Leigh E. Schmidt: The History Of Yoga And Religion In America

  • Yoga used to make a Christian nation writhe; now it has become an embodiment of the country s religious and social elasticity.

    Leigh E. Schmidt: The History Of Yoga And Religion In America

  • 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.

    Sting Teams Up With Ric O'Barry

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