v. twist·ed, twist·ing, twists
a. To wind together (two or more threads, for example) so as to produce a single strand.
b. To form in this manner: twist a length of rope from strands of hemp.
2. To wind or coil (vines or rope, for example) about something.
3. To interlock or interlace: twist flowers in one's hair.
4. To make (one's way) in a tortuous manner: twisted my way through the briar patch.
5. To cause to rotate or turn in another direction: twisted their heads around at the sound of the doorbell.
6. To impart a spiral or coiling shape to, as by turning the ends in opposite directions: twisting wire into a loop.
a. To turn or open by turning: twisted off the bottle cap.
b. To pull, break, or snap by turning: twist off a dead branch.
8. To wrench or sprain: twist one's wrist.
9. To alter the normal aspect of; contort: twist one's mouth into a wry smile.
10. To alter or distort the intended meaning of: The cross-examiner twisted the words of the witness. See Synonyms at distort.
11. To alter or distort the mental, moral, or emotional character of: The trauma twisted the child's outlook.
1. To be or become twisted.
2. To move or progress in a winding course; meander: The river twisted toward the sea.
3. To squirm; writhe: twist with pain.
4. To rotate or turn in another direction: The owl's head twisted around toward me.
5. To dance the twist.
1. Something twisted or formed by twisting, especially:
a. A length of yarn, cord, or thread, especially a strong silk thread used mainly to bind the edges of buttonholes.
b. Tobacco leaves processed into the form of a rope or roll.
c. A loaf of bread or other bakery product made from pieces of dough twisted together.
d. A sliver of citrus peel twisted over or dropped into a beverage for flavoring.
2. A spin, twirl, or rotation.
a. A complete rotation of the body around its vertical axis, as in diving and gymnastics.
b. A spinning motion given to a ball when thrown or struck in a specific way.
a. The state of being twisted into a spiral; torsional stress or strain.
b. The degree or angle of torsional stress.
a. A contortion or distortion of the body, especially the face.
b. A distortion of meaning: gave my words a misleading twist.
6. A sprain or wrench, as of an ankle.
7. A change in direction; a turn: a sharp twist in the path.
8. An unexpected change in a process or a departure from a pattern, often producing a distortion or perversion: a twist of fate; a story with a quirky twist.
9. A personal inclination or eccentricity; a penchant or flaw: an odd twist to his character.
10. A dance characterized by vigorous gyrations of the hips and arms.
To remove by twisting.
leave to twist/leave twisting in the wind
To abandon (someone) to a bad situation, often as a recipient of blame: "If our envoy was so blameless, why had she been left to twist in the wind?" (William Safire).
twist (someone's) arm Slang
To pressure or coerce: If you twist my arm, I'll stay for a second beer.
[Middle English twisten, to squeeze, be divided, from twist, a divided object, fork, rope, from Old English -twist; see dwo- 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.