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From Middle English writhen, from Old English wrīþan, from Proto-West Germanic *wrīþan, from Proto-Germanic *wrīþaną (to weave, twist, turn), from Proto-Indo-European *wreyt- (to twist, writhe). Cognate with Middle Dutch writen (to turn, twist), dialectal German reiden (to turn, twist, lace), Danish vride (to twist), Swedish vrida (to turn, twist, wind), French rider (to wrinkle, furrow, ruffle, (< Germanic)). Compare also Lithuanian riēsti (to unbend, wind, roll).


  • enPR: th, IPA(key): /ɹaɪð/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪð


writhe (third-person singular simple present writhes, present participle writhing, simple past writhed or (archaic) wrothe, past participle writhed or (archaic) writhen)

  1. (transitive) To twist, wring (something).
  2. (transitive) To contort (a part of the body).
  3. (intransitive) To twist bodily; to contort one's self; to be distorted.
    • 2011 October 1, Phil McNulty, “Everton 0-2 Liverpool”, in BBC Sport:
      The game was engulfed in controversy when Rodwell appeared to win the ball cleanly in a midfield challenge with Suarez. The tackle drew an angry response from Liverpool's players- Lucas in particular as Suarez writhed in agony - but it was an obvious injustice when the England Under-21 midfielder was shown the red card.
  4. (transitive) To extort.



writhe (plural writhes)

  1. (rare) A contortion.
  2. (knot theory) The number of negative crossings subtracted from the number of positive crossings in a knot


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of writhen