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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English twicchen, from Old English *twiċċan, from Proto-Germanic *twikkijaną (to nail, pin, fasten, clasp, pinch). Cognate with English tweak, Low German twikken, German Low German twicken (to pinch, pinch off), zweckōn and gizwickan (> German zwicken (to pinch)).



twitch (plural twitches)

  1. A brief, small (sometimes involuntary) movement out of place and then back again; a spasm.
    I saw a little twitch in the man's face, and knew he was lying.
  2. (informal) Action of spotting or seeking out a bird, especially a rare one.
  3. (farriery) A stick with a hole in one end through which passes a loop, which can be drawn tightly over the upper lip or an ear of a horse and twisted to keep the animal quiet during minor surgery.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of J. H. Walsh to this entry?)
  4. (physiology) A brief, contractile response of a skeletal muscle elicited by a single maximal volley of impulses in the neurons supplying it.
  5. (mining) The sudden narrowing almost to nothing of a vein of ore.
Derived terms[edit]



twitch (third-person singular simple present twitches, present participle twitching, simple past and past participle twitched)

  1. (intransitive) To perform a twitch; spasm.
    • (Can we date this quote?)[1]
      "Why is it that you twitch whenever I say Faith?"
    • 1922, Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
      Their feet padded softly on the ground, and they crept quite close to him, twitching their noses...
  2. (transitive) To jerk sharply and briefly.
    to twitch somebody's sleeve for attention
    • Alexander Pope
      Thrice they twitched the diamond in her ear.
  3. (transitive) To spot or seek out a bird, especially a rare one.
    • 1995, Quarterly Review of Biology vol. 70 p. 348:
      "The Birdwatchers Handbook ... will be a clear asset to those who 'twitch' in Europe."
    • 2003, Mark Cocker, Birders: Tales of a Tribe [2], →ISBN, page 52:
      "But the key revelation from twitching that wonderful Iceland Gull on 10 March 1974 wasn't its eroticism. It was the sheer innocence of it."
    • 2005, Sean Dooley, The Big Twitch: One Man, One Continent, a Race Against Time [3], →ISBN, page 119:
      "I hadn't seen John since I went to Adelaide to (unsuccessfully) twitch the '87 Northern Shoveler, when I was a skinny, eighteen- year-old kid. "
Usage notes[edit]

When used of birdwatchers by ignorant outsiders, this term frequently carries a negative connotation.

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

alternate of quitch


twitch (uncountable)

  1. couch grass (Elymus repens; a species of grass, often considered as a weed)