Word of the Day – Writhe

Word of the Day : October 19, 2022


verb RYTHE

What It Means

  • Writhe means “to twist.” The word is often used when the body or a bodily part is twisting, and especially when it is twisting in pain.
  • // After suffering an injury during the game, he lay on the football field, writhing in pain.
  • See the entry >

WRITHE In Context

“These recently-introduced earthworms go by many nicknames: Asian jumping worms, crazy worms, wood eels, Alabama jumpers or snake worms. Native to eastern Asia and first found in Wisconsin in 2013, jumping worms may wriggle like snakes and writhe violently when touched, launching themselves into the air. Like some lizards, they can shed their tails to escape predators.” — Alison Mitchell, The New Jersey Conservation Foundation (njconservation.org), 1 Sep. 2022

Did You Know?

Writhe wound its way to us from the Old English verb wrīthan, meaning “to twist,” and that ancestral meaning lives on in the word’s current uses, most of which have to do with twists of one kind or another. Among the oldest of these uses is the meaning “to twist into coils or folds,” but in modern use writhing is more often about the physical contortions of one suffering from debilitating pain or attempting to remove oneself from a tight grasp (as, say, a snake from a hawk’s talons). The word is also not infrequently applied to the twisting bodies of dancers. The closest relation of writhe in modern English lacks any of the painful connotations often present in writhewreath comes from Old English writha, which shares an ancestor with wrīthan.