Definition of wither in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈwɪðə/


1 [no object] (Of a plant) become dry and shrivelled: the grass had withered to an unappealing brown (as adjective withered) withered leaves
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • The same tree withers, droops and drops the dead leaves in autumn.
  • The plant's foliage withers back during the summer while pretty, orange-red berries appear in the fall.
wilt, become limp, droop, fade;
shrivel (up), dry up;
die, perish
technical become marcescent
1.1(Of a part of the body) become shrunken or wrinkled from age or disease: (as adjective withered) a girl with a withered arm
More example sentences
  • 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!
  • His body was wrinkled and withered, slightly bent over and hunched.
  • He was dressed in only a pair of boxer shorts, his body withered and pale.
waste (away), become shrunken, shrivel (up), atrophy, decay
2 [no object] Fall into decay or decline: it is not true that old myths either die or wither away
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • For creativity is a muscle that must be worked or it will gradually atrophy and wither.
diminish, dwindle, shrink, lessen, fade, ebb (away), wane, weaken, languish;
evaporate, melt away, disappear
2.1 [with object] Cause to decline or deteriorate; weaken: a business that can wither the hardiest ego
More example sentences
  • It is not anti-Semitic, but it is about anti-Semitism and how the prejudice withers its perpetrators as well as their victims.
  • There are so many things that wither and devour the flesh.
  • 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.
2.2 (wither 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
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • The Marxists states have mostly withered away - it's the capitalist states that are thriving.
  • 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.
3 [with object] Humiliate (someone) with a scornful look or manner: she withered him with a glance
More example sentences
  • 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.


wither on the vine

Fail to be implemented or dealt with because of inaction: that resolution clearly withered on the vine
More example sentences
  • ‘Talks have gone dead after the company looked at its figures again, and the deal has withered on the vine,’ said Mr Robinson.
  • The other route would see the fruits of eight years of growth wither on the vine through inaction and lack of imagination.
  • With the fruit withering on the vine, word came that a deal was being cut between Habbibi and Dostum.


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

  • Wither and weather (Old English) seem to be the same word, the different forms coming to be used for different senses. Weather itself is from a Germanic root linked to wind. The phrase wither away originated in early 20th century tracts about Marxist philosophy describing the decline of the state after a dictatorship has effected changes in society such that the state's domination is no longer necessary.

Words that rhyme with wither

dither, hither, slither, swither, thither, whither, zither

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: wither

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