Definition of wriggle in English:



  • 1Twist and turn with quick writhing movements:

    [no object] ‘she kicked and wriggled but he held her firmly’
    [with object] ‘she wriggled her bare, brown toes’
    • ‘Minutes later, she started to struggle again, pushing and pulling her arm, twisting and wriggling to try to get away.’
    • ‘Local ghillie David Dinsmore took a small party of Scouts to Addergoole river last Saturday, where all were surprised by the variety of tiny fish life that crawl, swim or wriggle on the river bed.’
    • ‘Sioni kicked and wriggled, but couldn't break free, much to other two's amusement.’
    • ‘She switched him back to the stroller, and a strange thing happened… Zack would writhe around in the stroller, wriggling and crying, until his mother picked him up.’
    • ‘We peer down at the tiny worm wriggling under the lens of our microscope.’
    • ‘She squirmed, writhed, and wriggled, trying to evade the grip of those carrying her.’
    • ‘I'd have to gingerly scoop up the worm (still wriggling, for he didn't kill them) and I'd throw it out the front door onto the little patch of lawn there.’
    • ‘She squirmed above him, wriggling like a fish on a hook.’
    • ‘Ivory screamed as she wriggled and twisted, trying in vain to get away.’
    • ‘The baby wriggled, all limbs kicking and waving happily.’
    • ‘Difficult to describe, the film contains a host of shifting shapes, such as dots and circles that wriggle and twist, as well as a recurring totem figure that is the most concrete element of the film.’
    • ‘They dropped to the floor and began twitching and wriggling slightly.’
    • ‘They had sliced the worm in two and the worm was still wriggling.’
    • ‘She's wriggling and twisting on the bed all the time.’
    • ‘Particularly ‘ticklish’ individuals wriggle and writhe in apparent agony, as well as laughing hysterically, when being tickled.’
    • ‘Sure enough, Fishy tugged the rod back and clicked the button and a shiny fish wriggled directly in front of Lazarus' nose.’
    • ‘Rowena had been scratching the puppy's tummy; she looked up at Terese but wasn't aware she had stopped moving until the puppy began to wriggle impatiently.’
    • ‘A little later, on the green, Dawa is carefully trying to remove a worm that's wriggling in his line.’
    • ‘The twins kicked and wriggled under his arms but couldn't get out of his powerful hold.’
    • ‘I could hardly keep still, squirming and wriggling all the time.’
    squirm, writhe, wiggle, jiggle, jerk, thresh, flounder, flail, twitch, turn, twist, twist and turn, zigzag
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    1. 1.1[no object, with adverbial of direction] Move in a particular direction with wriggling movements:
      ‘Susie wriggled out of her clothes’
      • ‘It was twisting and turning, wriggling about like a snake.’
      • ‘Once those worms start wriggling from the can, it's a tricky job getting the lid jammed on again.’
      • ‘She tried to wriggle and twist around, but could only move fractionally.’
      • ‘Poised on the edge of her seat, a wriggle backwards would put Ahern's tiny frame in danger of being swallowed by the sumptuously plush green sofa.’
      • ‘Bare branches grow out of one end, while shoots sprout out from the other, smiling snakes wriggle around and a baby bird emerges from an egg.’
      • ‘All the students took great pleasure in watching the worms wriggle around and begin to settle into their new home.’
      • ‘She glances at the window which, as it was for Wendy, is too small to wriggle out of.’
      • ‘Houdini exerted a preternatural control over his body, wriggling out of straitjackets by dislocating his shoulders.’
      • ‘She reached the rocks and wriggled through them, moving her feet gently through the water.’
      • ‘It snaked down and wriggled about, looking for a good avenue down to the ground but, thankfully, it failed to do so.’
      • ‘A serpent-sized worm wriggled by between our legs.’
      • ‘I moved my whole body, trying to wriggle myself away from him.’
      • ‘Once when I was in the bath, I saw a very prettily patterned green snake come wriggling through a gap between the wooden window frame and the mosquito netting.’
      • ‘The burglar then managed to escape by wriggling out of his hooded tracksuit top, before dumping his loot and running off.’
      • ‘She tried to wriggle away without waking him but she could barely move.’
      • ‘With a brief, feeble attempt she tried to wriggle out of what bound her wrists, but to no avail.’
      • ‘As curly-locked James clung 20-ft from the ground he had no idea of the commotion he had caused by wriggling out of a roof window at his Windermere home on to the roof tiles.’
      • ‘Someone latched onto him but he wriggled away, his eyes directly on Gabrielle Potter.’
      • ‘Steven Seymour came off the wing when he spotted the ball working free and with great determination he managed to wriggle and twist his way over for the score.’
      • ‘The story goes that a wolf crossed the path of Domenico and, as it was about to sink its teeth into him, a snake wriggled up and sank its fangs into the wolf.’
  • 2wriggle out of[no object] Avoid (something) by devious means:

    ‘don't try and wriggle out of your contract’
    • ‘However, airlines can still wriggle out of paying up if the flights were cancelled due to circumstances outside their control.’
    • ‘‘They knew we had won but they wriggled out of paying us because we had not reported our ticket as lost within 30 days of the draw,’ she said.’
    • ‘And the more strict the regulation, the easier it is for banks to wriggle out of responsibilities by insisting that they have ‘followed the rules’.’
    • ‘It cited an agreement that the bosses want to wriggle out of.’
    • ‘Deacon wriggled out of having to make a decision by setting up a group with very limited powers.’
    • ‘‘You are not going to wriggle out of the contract,’ says Manners.’
    • ‘He knows he's in a bit of a tight situation, but this is a guy who has wriggled out of one tight situation after another for 34 years, and he seems quite confident that he can do it again.’
    • ‘If you get a jury notice, treat it as a responsibility rather than something to wriggle out of.’
    • ‘Laser cardholders will be able to wriggle out of paying the annual €20 stamp duty on their cards from next year, thanks to a loophole in new rules governing the controversial tax.’
    • ‘To cut a long story short, this bill is introducing these rules to stop the banks from avoiding and wriggling out of their taxes.’
    • ‘He knows he can wriggle out of making a decision by speaking on the record before hearing the full evidence at the committee, thus ‘preventing’ him taking part in proceedings.’
    • ‘The subject of an aggressive international manhunt, the young man finds immense reserves of physical and combative abilities to wriggle out of any situation.’
    • ‘How he wriggles out of that situation forms the rest of the story.’
    • ‘The cost is now £50 and unlike parking tickets there are hardly any extenuating circumstances that can be used to wriggle out of the payment.’
    • ‘He has developed a gift for wriggling out of controversies by seizing the initiative and creating a third option.’
    • ‘Nothing has changed and our party will certainly be opposing any attempts at wriggling out of their duties.’
    • ‘The whisky industry, which last week was trying to wriggle out of new environmental regulations on water, has been outed as a major source of water pollution.’
    • ‘Not only are investors trying to sell what they own, they're hoping to wriggle out of what they still owe.’
    • ‘He said that, in his opinion, Mrs Stansfield's counter-claim was a ‘sham’ because she constantly tried to wriggle out of the contract and avoid blame for the shop's closure.’
    • ‘I let them down gently, first wriggling out of my board duties (in which I never held a great deal of interest anyway), and then letting go of the technical reins.’
    avoid, shirk, dodge, evade, elude, sidestep, circumvent, eschew
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  • A wriggling movement:

    ‘she gave an impatient little wriggle’
    • ‘With an awkward wriggle, he dragged his head clear.’
    • ‘My mother's cat, so long terrified by my very presence, appears to be getting used to me, and now does an impressive, fawning wriggle at my feet every time I pass.’
    • ‘Below him, Eric made a convulsive wriggle to get his legs around the bottom of the pipe.’
    • ‘He was not gagged, which was a blessing, but the rope was tied tight and limited any movement to a caterpillar-like wriggle.’
    • ‘He tried to move again but all he could manage was a wriggle under the blankets.’
    • ‘She gave a little wriggle of her shoulders, looking uncomfortable.’
    • ‘Sea creatures appear lashed by an ocean spray of brilliant white diamonds; the twisting form of an iguana brooch insinuates the darting wriggle of the animal's movements.’
    • ‘Verlust watched expectantly, and was rewarded by a wriggle in the vegetation that didn't match the movement of the rest in the soft breeze.’
    • ‘They do so with minimal effort, with an occasional wriggle of a flank and a sideways motion of a tail.’
    • ‘She felt her cousin wriggle beneath her when she landed on top of him, and she laughed, pleased with herself for turning his own trick back on him.’
    • ‘Alas, three minutes later the fish does a wriggle down deep and the hook comes free.’
    • ‘The wriggle brought Shawn into a half wakeful state and he groggily inhaled a faintly flowery scent.’
    squirm, jiggle, wiggle, jerk, twist, turn
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Late 15th century: from Middle Low German wriggelen, frequentative of wriggen twist, turn.