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Fidget vs. Squirm: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 6, 2023
"Fidget" refers to making small movements due to nervousness or impatience, while "squirm" means to wriggle or writhe due to discomfort or embarrassment.

Key Differences

Fidget and Squirm both relate to bodily movements, yet they manifest in subtly distinct manners. Fidget typically involves small, restless movements, often stemming from nervousness or boredom. Squirm, on the other hand, involves writhing or wriggling movements, commonly stemming from discomfort or unease.
Notably, when someone fidgets, it may not necessarily convey significant emotional or physical unrest. Contrastingly, to squirm implies a degree of emotional or physical discomfort, causing an individual to wiggle or twist their body, often noticeably.
From a psychological perspective, fidgeting might be a mechanism to release pent-up energy and can often be subtle, such as a leg shake or finger tap. Conversely, squirming tends to be more pronounced, a vivid manifestation of physical or emotional struggle, clearly visible to onlookers.
In behavioral observations, fidgeting might not always be construed negatively and can sometimes simply indicate a restless energy. Whereas squirming is often perceived as a clear indicator of discomfort, drawing more attention due to the conspicuous nature of the movements.
Fidgeting may often be seen in various contexts, such as a student in a class or an adult in a meeting, signaling boredom or impatience. However, squirming is frequently observed in situations of pronounced unease or where the individual wishes to escape scrutiny or physical discomfort.

Comparison Chart


Small, restless movements
Wriggling or writhing movements


Nervousness, impatience, or restlessness
Discomfort, embarrassment, or unease


Often subtle
Generally more pronounced and visible


May be neutral or negative
Often construed as negative

Common Causes

Boredom, anxiety, restlessness
Physical or emotional discomfort

Fidget and Squirm Definitions


Making small movements, especially of the hands and feet, through boredom or nervousness.
During the interview, he began to fidget with his tie.


Wriggling movements of a worm or worm-like creature.
The worm began to squirm on the sidewalk.


A device, such as a fidget spinner, designed to occupy restless hands.
The child played with a fidget to calm down.


To wriggle or twist the body from side to side, especially as a result of nervousness or discomfort.
He began to squirm under her stern gaze.


Unfocused or restless engagement with one's surroundings.
Unable to concentrate, he would fidget in his seat.


Exhibiting physical discomfort through movement.
In the tight shoes, her toes began to squirm.


An antsy or restless movement in place.
The puppy would fidget when it was excited.


An attempt to evade or shift away from an uncomfortable situation.
He tried to squirm out of answering the question.


To move or manipulate an object restlessly.
She would fidget with her pen during the meeting.


To feel or exhibit significant embarrassment.
He couldn’t help but squirm at the awkward comment.


To behave or move nervously or restlessly.


To twist about in a wriggling, snakelike motion; writhe.


To play or fuss; fiddle
He fidgeted with his notes while lecturing.


To feel or exhibit signs of humiliation or embarrassment.


To cause to behave or move nervously or restlessly.


The act of squirming.


Fidgets A condition of restlessness as manifested by nervous movements. Often used with the
A bored child who had the fidgets.


A squirming movement.


One that fidgets.


To twist one's body with snakelike motions.
The prisoner managed to squirm out of the straitjacket.


(intransitive) To wiggle or twitch; to move the body, especially the fingers, around nervously or idly.


To twist in discomfort, especially from shame or embarrassment.
I recounted the embarrassing story in detail just to watch him squirm.


(transitive) To cause to fidget; to make uneasy.


To evade a question, an interviewer etc. en


A nervous wriggling or twitching motion.


A twisting, snakelike movement of the body.


(informal) A person who fidgets, especially habitually.


To twist about briskly with contortions like an eel or a worm; to wriggle; to writhe.


A toy intended to be fidgeted with.


The act of wiggling


To move uneasily one way and the other; to move irregularly, or by fits and starts.


To move in a twisting or contorted motion, (especially when struggling);
The prisoner writhed in discomfort
The child tried to wriggle free from his aunt's embrace


Uneasiness; restlessness.


A general nervous restlessness, manifested by incessant changes of position; dysphoria.


A feeling of agitation expressed in continual motion;
He's got the fidgets
Waiting gave him a feeling of restlessness


Move restlessly;
The child is always fidgeting in his seat


Does everyone fidget?

Most people fidget to some extent, whether due to restlessness, boredom, or nervousness.

Is squirming a sign of lying?

Not always, but squirming can indicate discomfort or nervousness, which may be associated with dishonesty.

What does it mean to fidget?

To fidget means to make small, restless movements, often due to nervousness or impatience.

Does squirming indicate guilt?

Not necessarily. While squirming might occur when someone feels guilty, it isn’t a definitive indicator of guilt.

Is squirming always noticeable?

Squirming, characterized by wriggling or twisting, is usually quite noticeable and implies discomfort.

Can constant fidgeting be a disorder?

Persistent fidgeting is a symptom in certain disorders, like ADHD, but is not a disorder on its own.

Can fidgeting be a coping mechanism?

Yes, some people fidget to manage anxiety or excess energy.

Is it unhealthy to fidget?

Fidgeting is not inherently unhealthy and can sometimes serve as a self-soothing behavior.

Can you control squirming?

It may be controllable, but in moments of discomfort, squirming might be an involuntary response.

Can fidget tools be useful for concentration?

Yes, for some individuals, using a fidget tool like a spinner or cube can enhance focus.

Can fidgeting be conscious or unconscious?

Fidgeting can be both conscious and unconscious, varying from intentional movements to automatic actions.

Can fidgeting burn calories?

Yes, fidgeting does burn a minimal amount of calories due to the physical activity involved.

Is squirming related to physical pain?

Sometimes. Squirming can be a response to both physical discomfort and emotional unease.

Is squirming common in certain situations?

Yes, people might squirm when they feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, or are in an awkward situation.

How can I stop fidgeting?

Addressing underlying causes, like boredom or anxiety, and employing mindfulness might reduce fidgeting.

Is squirming similar to twitching?

While both involve movement, squirming is usually larger and more deliberate than the involuntary contractions of twitching.

Is squirming always negative?

Typically, squirming is viewed negatively as it often signals discomfort or distress.

How can I manage the need to fidget?

Using fidget tools or focusing on mindfulness and grounding techniques might help manage fidgeting.

Can squirming be a sign of anxiety?

Yes, individuals might squirm in situations where they experience anxiety or stress.

Can squirming occur in sleep?

Yes, some people squirm or move restlessly during sleep, particularly during certain sleep phases.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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