AskDefine | Define writhe

The Collaborative Dictionary

Writhe \Writhe\, v. i. To twist or contort the body; to be distorted; as, to writhe with agony. Also used figuratively. [1913 Webster] After every attempt, he felt that he had failed, and writhed with shame and vexation. --Macaulay. [1913 Webster]
Writhe \Writhe\, v. t. [imp. Writhed; p. p. Writhed, Obs. or Poetic Writhen; p. pr. & vb. n. Writhing.] [OE. writhen, AS. wr[imac]?an to twist; akin to OHG. r[imac]dan, Icel. r[imac]?a, Sw. vrida, Dan. vride. Cf. Wreathe, Wrest, Wroth.] [1913 Webster]
To twist; to turn; now, usually, to twist or turn so as to distort; to wring. "With writhing [turning] of a pin." --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] Then Satan first knew pain, And writhed him to and fro. --Milton. [1913 Webster] Her mouth she writhed, her forehead taught to frown. --Dryden. [1913 Webster] His battle-writhen arms, and mighty hands. --Tennyson. [1913 Webster]
To wrest; to distort; to pervert. [1913 Webster] The reason which he yieldeth showeth the least part of his meaning to be that whereunto his words are writhed. --Hooker. [1913 Webster]
To extort; to wring; to wrest. [R.] [1913 Webster] The nobility hesitated not to follow the example of their sovereign in writhing money from them by every species of oppression. --Sir W. Scott. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

writhe v : to move in a twisting or contorted motion, (especially when struggling); "The prisoner writhed in discomfort"; "The child tried to wriggle free from his aunt's embrace" [syn: wrestle, wriggle, worm, squirm, twist]

Moby Thesaurus

ache, agonize, ail, anguish, bend, blanch, bleed, blench, buckle, contort, crook, crumple, distort, feel pain, feel the pangs, fidget, flinch, flip out, flutter, freak out on, get high on, glow, gnarl, go hard with, go pitapat, grimace, have a misery, have the fidgets, have the shakes, heave, hurt, jerk, knot, palpitate, pant, pound, quake, quaver, quiver, recoil, screw, shake, shiver, shoot, shrink, smart, spring, squiggle, squirm, suffer, suffer anguish, swell, swell with emotion, thrash, thrill, thrill to, throb, tingle, tingle with excitement, toss, toss and turn, tremble, tumble, turn, turn awry, turn on to, twinge, twist, twist and turn, twitch, twitter, wag, waggle, warp, wiggle, wince, worm, wrench, wrest, wriggle, wring




Old English wrīþan


  1. In the context of "knot theory": The number of negative crossings subtracted from the number of positive crossings in a knot


  1. To twist; to turn; now, usually, to twist or turn so as to distort; to wring.
  2. To wrest; to distort; to pervert.
  3. To extort; to wring; to wrest.
  4. To twist or contort the body; to be distorted; as, to writhe with agony (also figuratively).


To twist or contort the body


In knot theory, the writhe is a property of an oriented link diagram. The writhe is the total number of positive crossings minus the total number of negative crossings.
A direction is assigned to the link at a point in each component and this direction is followed all the way around each component. If as you travel along a link component and cross over a crossing, the strand underneath goes from right to left, the crossing is positive; if the lower strand goes from left to right, the crossing is negative. One way of remembering this is to use a variation of the right-hand rule.
For a knot diagram, using the right-hand rule with either orientation gives the same result, so the writhe is well-defined on unoriented knot diagrams.
The writhe of a knot is unaffected by two of the three Reidemeister moves: moves of Type II and Type III do not affect the writhe. Reidemeister move Type I, however, increases or decreases the writhe by 1. This implies that the writhe of a knot is not an isotopy invariant of the knot itself — only the diagram. By a series of Type I moves one can set the writhe of a diagram for a given knot to be any integer at all.

See also

writhe in French: Entortillement
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