Definitions

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

  • n. Either of two small Old World woodpeckers (Jynx torquilla or J. ruficollis), having a sharply pointed bill and the habit of twisting the head and neck into contortions.
  • n. See torticollis.
  • n. A person with torticollis.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Either of two small woodpeckers, Jynx torquilla and Jynx ruficollis, of the Old World that can turn their heads almost 180 degrees.
  • n. A twisted or distorted neck; a deformity in which the neck is drawn to one side by a rigid contraction of one of the muscles; torticollis.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.
  • n. A twisted or distorted neck; a deformity in which the neck is drawn to one side by a rigid contraction of one of the muscles of the neck; torticollis.
  • n. a person suffering from torticollis.
  • n. Any one of several species of Old World birds of the genus Jynx or subfamily Jynginae, allied to the woodpeckers; especially, the common European species (Jynx torguilla); -- so called from its habit of turning the neck around in different directions. Called also cuckoo's mate, snakebird, summer bird, tonguebird, and writheneck.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A twisted or distorted neck; a deformity in which the neck is drawn to one side and rotated. See torticollis.
  • n. A spasmodic disease of sheep, in which the head is drawn to one side.
  • n. A scansorial picarian bird of the genus Iynx (Junx, or Yunx), allied to the woodpeckers, and belonging to the same family or a closely related one: so called from the singular manner in which it can twist the neck, and so turn it awry.

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

  • n. an unnatural condition in which the head leans to one side because the neck muscles on that side are contracted
  • n. Old World woodpecker with a peculiar habit of twisting the neck

Etymologies

From wry +‎ neck. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The adjective 'wryneck'd' refers, not to the instrument itself, which was straight, but to the player, whose head has to be slightly twisted round to get at the mouthpiece.

    Shakespeare and Music With Illustrations from the Music of the 16th and 17th centuries

  • The instrument was therefore held _across_ [traverso] the face of the player, whose head would be turned sideways, and hence comes Shylock's description of it as the 'wryneck'd' fife.

    Shakespeare and Music With Illustrations from the Music of the 16th and 17th centuries

  • It shares this quality with only two other birds, I think: the wryneck, an aberrant woodpecker, and another night bird, the nightjar.

    A Year on the Wing

  • The arrangement of the toes is such as has been described in all birds with the exception of the wryneck.

    On the Parts of Animals

  • Here only two of the toes are in front, the other two behind; and the reason for this is that the body of the wryneck is not inclined forward so much as that of other birds.

    On the Parts of Animals

  • Birds that fly high in air are in all cases four-toed: that is, the greater part have three toes in front and one behind in place of a heel; some few have two in front and two behind, as the wryneck.

    The History of Animals

  • The wryneck was thought to build the nest, and hatch and feed the young of the cuckoo.

    Welsh Folk-Lore a Collection of the Folk-Tales and Legends of North Wales

  • Pied and golden-backed woodpeckers, companies of nuthatches, and, here and there, a wryneck move about on the trunks and branches, looking into every cranny for insects.

    A Bird Calendar for Northern India

  • Here one can sit and smoke and converse with some rare countryman passing by; here one can dream, forgetful of nightingales -- soothed, rather, by the mellifluous note of the oriole among the green branches overhead and the piping, agreeably remote, of some wryneck in the olives down yonder.

    Alone

  • As love goddesses were "Fates", however, the wryneck may have been connected with the belief that the perpetrator of a murder, or

    Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

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Comments

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  • "He pointed it out to Jack with the usual result: 'There is a wryneck.' 'Where?' 'On the young elm to the right of—it is gone.'"
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Thirteen Gun Salute, 93

    This is also the usual result of my pointing out any bird (no matter its size or proximity) to my mate.

    March 3, 2008

  • Any of several types of birds in the woodpecker family, so called for their habit of twisting the head and neck

    February 26, 2007