Definition of wither in English:



  • 1no object (of a plant) become dry and shrivelled.

    ‘the grass had withered to an unappealing brown’
    • ‘And the evidence abounds: thick truncated trunks still pushing out new sprigs, charred stumps, and entire trees withering on the roadside.’
    • ‘An instant of heat and he was suddenly standing at the edge of a great expanse of grassland, the grass withered and blackened in places but generally a dry yellow.’
    • ‘He sees the crops withered through drought and devoured by pests on a shrivelled land struggling to escape the paralysis of famine.’
    • ‘After all flowers have withered, cut off the entire stem.’
    • ‘As autumn shows its tail, osmanthus flowers wither but the scent lingers, though not as fragrant as before.’
    • ‘A slow descent into a long and murky winter; on my doorstep, the colourful leaves on the trees withered and fell, and there was no spring.’
    • ‘Crops were withering, cattle were dying, and the river that once sculpted canyons was a trickle.’
    • ‘Weeds wither within a few minutes (though perennial weeds will require repeat applications).’
    • ‘The plant's foliage withers back during the summer while pretty, orange-red berries appear in the fall.’
    • ‘Finally, an attempt is made to tie the episode of the fig tree withering to Homer.’
    • ‘He's so ugly his smile makes leaves fall off trees, grass wither and die, and animals flee in terror.’
    • ‘This delicate flower will wither and blow away like dust in the wind if it's not watered with affection and the light of love doesn't shine.’
    • ‘Whenever he touched the ground the grass withered and died underneath his foot.’
    • ‘The same tree withers, droops and drops the dead leaves in autumn.’
    • ‘The world suddenly became cold as the grass withered down to nothing.’
    • ‘Development of the tagged inflorescences was examined daily until the flowers had withered.’
    • ‘Many Tibetans believe that in ancient times Jiuzhaigou suffered such disasters that its mountains collapsed, trees and flowers withered and inhabitants fled.’
    • ‘Adolphus aimed the mouth of his flame-thrower at the flowered archway and let the flowers wither under the imagined flames of his mind, and he delighted in this.’
    • ‘The delicate anicham flower withers when merely smelled, but an unwelcome look is enough to wither a guest's heart.’
    • ‘Staring in disbelief Kana realized that the flower had withered slowly beneath her touch.’
    wilt, become limp, droop, fade
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    1. 1.1 (of a part of the body) become shrunken or wrinkled from age or disease.
      ‘the flesh had withered away’
      • ‘Her fingers were old and withered, wrinkles and extra skin from weight loss that had happened too quickly made the effect even worse.’
      • ‘Nemeth was probably being taken to Tardonia, either to be ransomed or more likely to be unpleasantly executed, body charred and features withered by hostile magic.’
      • ‘While bodies may wither, or fall ill, with age, the mind can remain good.’
      • ‘The other Guards stood back in horror as the man's body hit the floor, a gaunt, withered, specter of their own future.’
      • ‘His body withered and shriveled like a prune in the sun, and, as Juktis watched, he turned into dust and was carried away to drift on the winds for all of eternity.’
      • ‘I am classic Northern/Celtic stock, and I wither in this weather.’
      • ‘The body might wither and die, but the thing that is the person, the essence, the soul lives on.’
      • ‘His body was wrinkled and withered, slightly bent over and hunched.’
      • ‘His thin body is withered and frail, and he shivers in the cold night air.’
      • ‘Over the years, his muscles withered, his bones thinned, and he suffered repeated bouts of infection and life-threatening complications.’
      • ‘He was dressed in only a pair of boxer shorts, his body withered and pale.’
      • ‘All the time Jeremiah talked, Mathias edged closer to the body, making the girl seem to shrink and wither before the size of him.’
      • ‘Lord Keel was covered in several large wounds in his chest and his skin had withered and thinned as if he had been dried like a mannequin.’
      • ‘Prominent community members wither and die in silence because the disease is considered so shameful.’
      • ‘With no need for locomotion, the arms and legs withered into pencil thin stumps.’
      • ‘Prolonged boozing can actually eat away at a man's body, leaving his wedding tackle withered, his muscles punier and his bones weaker.’
      • ‘Her eyes were a pale red, her body seemed withered and drawn out, and she was constantly yawning.’
      • ‘For the body withering under the polluted skies of the City, with all the energies drained by the daily rigmarole of life, this is manna from heaven!’
      • ‘My friends' faces and arms tanned a beautiful bronze while my arms withered, blistered, burned and peeled.’
      • ‘Her whole body seemed sucked dry of every liquid; she seemed withered in old age when she heard the two words that would forever change her life.’
      waste, waste away, become shrunken, shrivel, shrivel up, atrophy, decay
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  • 2no object Fall into decay or decline.

    ‘it is not true that old myths either die or wither away’
    • ‘The snaps between characters fall flat, and all other attempts at comedy simply wither and die.’
    • ‘We in New Zealand, you know, used to be able to relax a bit, to be able to think that we would sit comfortably while the rest of the world seared, singed, withered.’
    • ‘For creativity is a muscle that must be worked or it will gradually atrophy and wither.’
    • ‘Players become shallow and lazy as important parts of their game wither and atrophy from disuse.’
    • ‘The pressure not to split the team into warring camps during such a season was withering, and it fell on both of them.’
    • ‘Phil Fontaine and Jane Stewart's Gathering Strength initiative began to wither.’
    • ‘The line of soldiers of Kalon began to wither and grow thin, only a few warriors remained and gaps in their lines were beginning to form as they were running out of men.’
    • ‘Everything that had made me a beautiful, cheerful girl had withered and died on the twenty-third of June.’
    • ‘If you trust me I will instil in you the correct moral values so needed in this age of sexual libertarianism and moral decay, and also aid your withered self esteem.’
    • ‘The blast withered to nothing as the attack stopped; Joshua fell from his position, hitting the ground with a dull thud.’
    diminish, dwindle, shrink, lessen, fade, ebb, ebb away, wane, weaken, languish
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    1. 2.1with object Cause to decline or deteriorate; weaken.
      ‘a business that can wither the hardiest ego’
      • ‘‘Age cannot wither her not custom stale her infinite variety’ said Shakespeare of his heroine Cleopatra.’
      • ‘A Hampshire airman will be proving that age certainly has not withered him when he pilots a replica First World War plane this weekend.’
      • ‘It is not anti-Semitic, but it is about anti-Semitism and how the prejudice withers its perpetrators as well as their victims.’
      • ‘Kelly was a conservative columnist known for withering criticisms of former president Bill Clinton and his vice president Al Gore, and also worked for the New Republic and Atlantic Monthly magazines.’
      • ‘There are so many things that wither and devour the flesh.’
    2. 2.2wither away (of the state in Marxist theory) cease to exist because no longer necessary after the dictatorship of the proletariat has implemented the necessary changes in society.
      ‘the state in socialist societies has failed to wither away’
      • ‘On the plus side, the BNP will wither away like the State in an ideal Socialist society.’
      • ‘Though Marxists argue that under communism the state will wither away, it is precisely in communist societies that state control grew to enormous proportions.’
      • ‘The Marxists states have mostly withered away - it's the capitalist states that are thriving.’
      • ‘Too bad it was the Marxist states that all withered away, so that people might enjoy enough freedom to make a little money and enjoy themselves a bit.’
      • ‘This, combined with the ideal of the class-less society and the expected withering away of the state after the revolution, implies a form of cosmopolitanism of its own.’
  • 3with object Humiliate (someone) with a scornful look or manner.

    ‘she withered him with a glance’
    • ‘Caroline merely tucked a curl behind her ear and withered him with a stare she had studied from Margaret Thatcher until he wilted completely.’
    • ‘With blazing and scornful eyes she fairly withered him by demanding whatever he meant by speaking to respectable people that way.’
    • ‘For those who see her withering her opponents with television soundbites, it comes as a surprise to find her sense of humour always bubbling close to the surface.’
    • ‘That Simpsons parody comes to mind: the state-of-the-art sonic blast withers the theater crowd, and cracks teeth.’
    • ‘They are quite likely to see right through you and your feckless ways, like Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous withering Edina and Patsy with her magnificently polished disdain.’
    • ‘For half a century Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau withered any rival in vocal range with an austere glare and an iron grip on recording opportunities.’
    • ‘Carrie withered her, and for a second Stevie was taken aback.’


  • wither on the vine

    • Fail to be implemented or dealt with because of inaction.

      ‘that resolution clearly withered on the vine’
      • ‘With the fruit withering on the vine, word came that a deal was being cut between Habbibi and Dostum.’
      • ‘We have two great resources withering on the vine just at a time when the world is desperate to see if we can be as resourceful as the people who are perceived to be inundating us.’
      • ‘‘Talks have gone dead after the company looked at its figures again, and the deal has withered on the vine,’ said Mr Robinson.’
      • ‘It will mean the withering on the vine of Tory opposition to UK membership of the euro.’
      • ‘And despite this summer's favorable Supreme Court ruling, school vouchers remain a scholastic Schindler's List - rescuing children one at a time while an entire generation of abandoned kids withers on the vine.’
      • ‘The other route would see the fruits of eight years of growth wither on the vine through inaction and lack of imagination.’
      • ‘The objectionable institution of an advisory board is an appendage to a funding bill necessary to keep the underfunded Middle Eastern Studies programs from withering on the vine.’
      • ‘It was the second phase of a development of the Coniston estate, and although the first phase, which included a 40 bedroom hotel, was swiftly completed, the golf course plan appears to have withered on the vine.’
      • ‘There was a danger they could have withered on the vine.’
      • ‘Other small live music venues just withered on the vine.’


Late Middle English: apparently a variant of weather, ultimately differentiated for certain senses.