Definition of wriggle in English:



  • 1Twist and turn with quick writhing movements.

    no object ‘the puppy wriggled in his arms’
    with object ‘she wriggled her bare, brown toes’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The twins kicked and wriggled under his arms but couldn't get out of his powerful hold.’
    • ‘Sioni kicked and wriggled, but couldn't break free, much to other two's amusement.’
    • ‘Particularly ‘ticklish’ individuals wriggle and writhe in apparent agony, as well as laughing hysterically, when being tickled.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She squirmed above him, wriggling like a fish on a hook.’
    • ‘I could hardly keep still, squirming and wriggling all the time.’
    • ‘A little later, on the green, Dawa is carefully trying to remove a worm that's wriggling in his line.’
    • ‘Sure enough, Fishy tugged the rod back and clicked the button and a shiny fish wriggled directly in front of Lazarus' nose.’
    • ‘She's wriggling and twisting on the bed all the time.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They had sliced the worm in two and the worm was still wriggling.’
    • ‘The baby wriggled, all limbs kicking and waving happily.’
    • ‘Minutes later, she started to struggle again, pushing and pulling her arm, twisting and wriggling to try to get away.’
    • ‘She squirmed, writhed, and wriggled, trying to evade the grip of those carrying her.’
    • ‘We peer down at the tiny worm wriggling under the lens of our microscope.’
    • ‘Ivory screamed as she wriggled and twisted, trying in vain to get away.’
    • ‘They dropped to the floor and began twitching and wriggling slightly.’
    • ‘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.’
    squirm, writhe, wiggle, jiggle, jerk, thresh, flounder, flail, twitch, turn, twist, twist and turn, zigzag
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object, with adverbial of direction Move in a particular direction with wriggling movements.
      ‘Susie wriggled out of her clothes’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She tried to wriggle and twist around, but could only move fractionally.’
      • ‘It was twisting and turning, wriggling about like a snake.’
      • ‘Someone latched onto him but he wriggled away, his eyes directly on Gabrielle Potter.’
      • ‘The burglar then managed to escape by wriggling out of his hooded tracksuit top, before dumping his loot and running off.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She glances at the window which, as it was for Wendy, is too small to wriggle out of.’
      • ‘She tried to wriggle away without waking him but she could barely move.’
      • ‘I moved my whole body, trying to wriggle myself away from him.’
      • ‘It snaked down and wriggled about, looking for a good avenue down to the ground but, thankfully, it failed to do so.’
      • ‘With a brief, feeble attempt she tried to wriggle out of what bound her wrists, but to no avail.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Once those worms start wriggling from the can, it's a tricky job getting the lid jammed on again.’
      • ‘All the students took great pleasure in watching the worms wriggle around and begin to settle into their new home.’
      • ‘A serpent-sized worm wriggled by between our legs.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 2wriggle out ofno object Avoid (something) by devious means.

    ‘don't try and wriggle out of your contract’
    • ‘The subject of an aggressive international manhunt, the young man finds immense reserves of physical and combative abilities to wriggle out of any situation.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If you get a jury notice, treat it as a responsibility rather than something to wriggle out of.’
    • ‘Deacon wriggled out of having to make a decision by setting up a group with very limited powers.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It cited an agreement that the bosses want to wriggle out of.’
    • ‘He has developed a gift for wriggling out of controversies by seizing the initiative and creating a third option.’
    • ‘How he wriggles out of that situation forms the rest of the story.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘To cut a long story short, this bill is introducing these rules to stop the banks from avoiding and wriggling out of their taxes.’
    • ‘‘You are not going to wriggle out of the contract,’ says Manners.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘Nothing has changed and our party will certainly be opposing any attempts at wriggling out of their duties.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Not only are investors trying to sell what they own, they're hoping to wriggle out of what they still owe.’
    • ‘However, airlines can still wriggle out of paying up if the flights were cancelled due to circumstances outside their control.’
    avoid, shirk, dodge, evade, elude, sidestep, circumvent, eschew
    View synonyms


  • A wriggling movement.

    ‘she gave an impatient little wriggle’
    • ‘The wriggle brought Shawn into a half wakeful state and he groggily inhaled a faintly flowery scent.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘With an awkward wriggle, he dragged his head clear.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Below him, Eric made a convulsive wriggle to get his legs around the bottom of the pipe.’
    • ‘She gave a little wriggle of her shoulders, looking uncomfortable.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He tried to move again but all he could manage was a wriggle under the blankets.’
    • ‘He was not gagged, which was a blessing, but the rope was tied tight and limited any movement to a caterpillar-like wriggle.’
    • ‘They do so with minimal effort, with an occasional wriggle of a flank and a sideways motion of a tail.’
    • ‘Alas, three minutes later the fish does a wriggle down deep and the hook comes free.’
    squirm, jiggle, wiggle, jerk, twist, turn
    View synonyms


Late 15th century: from Middle Low German wriggelen, frequentative of wriggen ‘twist, turn’.