ship·​wreck | \ˈship-ˌrek \

Definition of shipwreck 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a wrecked ship or its parts

2 : the destruction or loss of a ship

3 : an irretrievable loss or failure


shipwrecked; shipwrecking; shipwrecks

Definition of shipwreck (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to cause to experience shipwreck

b : ruin

2 : to destroy (a ship) by grounding or foundering

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Synonyms & Antonyms for shipwreck

Synonyms: Noun

bomb, bummer, bust, catastrophe, clinker, clunker, debacle (also débâcle), disaster, dud, failure, fiasco, fizzle, flop, frost, lemon, loser, miss, turkey, washout

Synonyms: Verb

strand, wreck

Antonyms: Noun

blockbuster, hit, smash, success, winner

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Examples of shipwreck in a Sentence


Only a few sailors survived the shipwreck. The crew narrowly avoided shipwreck. Divers searched the sunken shipwreck.


the yachtsman fell asleep at the wheel and shipwrecked his ketch on the rocks
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

On August 31, an international team of researchers and divers led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) retrieved the first ancient skeleton from a shipwreck since the advent of DNA studies. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Ancient Skeleton at Famous Shipwreck Could Be Tested for DNA," 20 Sep. 2016 The Black Sea MAP project has found more than 60 shipwrecks in the region, ranging from 17th century Cossack raiders to Roman trading ships. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Greek Trading Ship That Sank 2,400 Years Ago Found Intact," 23 Oct. 2018 Action junkies will also want to snorkel around the shipwrecks off Elbow Beach, and hit Bermuda's 22+ miles of bike trails. Condé Nast Traveler, "12 Zika-Free Destinations to Travel to This Year," 15 Oct. 2018 Sitting on the sandy seabed at 100 feet is a shipwreck. Helen Scales, Discover Magazine, "Hearing Nemo," 17 Aug. 2018 Over the weekend, Italian newspapers carried pictures of Libyan Coast Guard officials holding three babies who had died in a shipwreck. Gaia Pianigiani, New York Times, "Malta Cracks Down on a Humanitarian Ship That Carried Migrants," 2 July 2018 In 2013, French researchers found a crystal the size of a deck of cards among navigation equipment in a British shipwreck in the English Channel. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Simulation Suggests Viking Sunstones of Legend Could Have Worked," 9 Apr. 2018 On April 25, Guernsey's auction house in New York City is selling some of the rarest emeralds in the world, many of which were discovered in a 400-year-old shipwreck. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Rare Emeralds Discovered in 400-Year-Old Shipwreck to Be Sold at Auction," 17 Apr. 2017 The 1838 shipwreck was 'the Titanic of its time.' Divers just made an eerie discovery. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "Deep sea explorers find mysterious creatures and one 'horror' off Carolinas coast," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

And watching with delight, cozied up in one of the old theater seats that dot the Globe’s outdoor Davies stage, is Kate Burton as Prospera, the sorcerer who has whipped up this tempest to shipwreck and bring rough justice to some old foes. James Hebert,, "'Tempest' a satisfying whirl of wit and wizardry at Old Globe," 24 June 2018 In recent weeks, Italy and Malta have denied access to their ports to three ships that had rescued hundreds of migrants shipwrecked off the Libyan coast. Valentina Pop, WSJ, "Immigration Debate Takes on New Urgency as EU Leaders Meet," 27 June 2018 The retired radiologist and former Navy captain was shipwrecked in the Bahamas; crash-landed a small plane on a Maine pond after the engine cut out; and was stuck on a mountain in Greece after injuring his leg on a scenic bike ride. Steve Annear,, "A 95-year-old Maine resident beat a rabid fox to death with a wooden plank," 28 June 2018 In the beginning of the play, Miranda is charmed by the human beings shipwrecked on her island. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Puzzled by Westworld? Look to Shakespeare.," 26 June 2018 Jamie and Claire saved him—only to then shipwreck in Colonial Georgia, which is where season four will pick up. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Good News: There’s a Lot More Outlander in Your Future," 9 May 2018 The ordinariness of his tale and its unexceptional heroes—Ananda and his uncle Radhesh, an avatar for Odysseus—implies that, in the end, everyone is wandering and shipwrecked. The Economist, "In times of crisis, writers turn to Homer," 26 Apr. 2018 What if they were shipwrecked on an island and popped out Baby Tarzan? Mehera Bonner, Marie Claire, "The Craziest Movie Fan Theories on the Internet," 1 May 2017 Lagooned! is a musical comedy about a group of castaways that are shipwrecked in the middle of the South Pacific. Independencelocalschools,, "Independence Middle School Drama Club Presents "Lagooned!": Community Voices," 23 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shipwreck.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shipwreck


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for shipwreck


alteration of earlier shipwrack, from Middle English schipwrak, from Old English scipwræc, from scip ship + wræc something driven by the sea — more at wrack

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Learn More about shipwreck

Dictionary Entries near shipwreck






ship writ


Statistics for shipwreck

Last Updated

29 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shipwreck

The first known use of shipwreck was in the 12th century

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More Definitions for shipwreck



English Language Learners Definition of shipwreck

: the destruction or sinking of a ship at sea

: a ruined or destroyed ship


ship·​wreck | \ˈship-ˌrek \

Kids Definition of shipwreck

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a ruined or destroyed ship Divers explored the shipwreck.

2 : the loss or destruction of a ship Only a few sailors survived the shipwreck.


shipwrecked; shipwrecking

Kids Definition of shipwreck (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to cause to experience destruction of a ship and usually be left stranded The crew was shipwrecked.

2 : to ruin or destroy (a ship) by crashing ashore or sinking

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Comments on shipwreck

What made you want to look up shipwreck? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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