v. writhed, writh·ing, writhes
1. To make twisting bodily movements, as in pain or struggle.
2. To move with a twisting or contorted motion: A snake writhed out of the bushes.
3. To suffer emotional or physical distress, as from embarrassment or anguish: "She writhed at the bare idea that he might pay court to some girl" (W. Somerset Maugham).
To cause to twist or squirm; contort: "His lips ... were now writhed into unholy contortions" (Stephen Crane).
The act or an instance of writhing: "'If I may umbly make the remark,' said Uriah Heep with a writhe" (Charles Dickens).
[Middle English writhen, from Old English wrīthan; see wer-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.