What's the best verb out there to describe the erratic movement of an insect's legs.

To give you a clearer picture, just think of an upside down cockroach that is 'moving' its legs frantically and quickly because it can't get back on them.

Browsing some dictionaries, I found the verb 'wiggle', but I'm not sure it conveys the sense of agitation that I would like. Obviously I could fix the problem with an adverb, but I was wondering if I could avoid that with a more specific verb.

1 Answer 1


Plenty of possibilities: writhe, jerk, wave, thrash, flail, squirm.

The cockroach lay on its back, its legs flailing pointlessly.

  • 1
    It isn't pointless since they are trying to right themselves.
    – Lambie
    Dec 21, 2021 at 19:05
  • 1
    Don't forget "twitch"
    – gotube
    Dec 21, 2021 at 22:47
  • It's pointless if there is no way that they can right themselves by flailing their legs. This instinctive behaviour hopes to catch onto some piece of grass or leaf etc, which the beetle can use to get the right way up. But they haven't evolved a method to right themselves from a flat floor with nowhere to hold on to.
    – James K
    Aug 2, 2023 at 23:58

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