wrack

noun (1)
\ ˈrak How to pronounce wrack (audio) \

Definition of wrack

 (Entry 1 of 6)

1a : a wrecked ship
c : wreck
d dialect : the violent destruction of a structure, machine, or vehicle
2a : marine vegetation especially : kelp
b : dried seaweeds

wrack

noun (2)

Definition of wrack (Entry 2 of 6)

2 : a remnant of something destroyed

wrack

verb (1)
wracked; wracking; wracks

Definition of wrack (Entry 3 of 6)

transitive verb

: to utterly ruin : wreck

wrack

verb (2)
wracked; wracking; wracks

Definition of wrack (Entry 4 of 6)

wrack

noun (3)

Definition of wrack (Entry 5 of 6)

wrack

noun (4)

Definition of wrack (Entry 6 of 6)

Frequently Asked Questions About wrack

Do you rack or wrack your brain?

Wrack and rack are etymologically distinct, meaning they come from different words. Many usage guides will advise that you should use wrack for meanings such as "to utterly ruin," and rack for "to cause to suffer torture, pain, anguish, or ruin." If you follow this advice, the proper choice for what you do to your brain when thinking very hard is rack. However, wrack has long been used as a variant of rack, and numerous fine writers have avowedly wracked their brains or found something nerve-wracking.

Is it racked or wracked with pain?

Some guides feel that "racked with pain" is the preferable choice, although wrack is in many cases an acceptable variant. The verbs are often conflated despite their very different origins (the former from Middle Dutch rekken, meaning "to stretch," and the latter from the Middle English word for shipwreck, wrak).

"Do you rack up or wrack up debts?"

While there are a number of settings in which wrack is considered an acceptable variant of rack, the accumulation of debts is not one of them. In this context rack up typically means "to achieve, score; to accumulate."

First Known Use of wrack

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (1)

1562, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

circa 1555, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

1591, in the meaning defined above

Noun (4)

1794, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for wrack

Noun (1)

Middle English wrak, borrowed from Middle Dutch wrac, wracke & Middle Low German wrak, going back to Germanic *wrak-a- "something driven," noun derivative from the base of of Germanic *wrekan- "to drive out, pursue" — more at wreak

Noun (2)

Middle English wrake, wrak, going back to Old English wracu (genitive wræce) & wræc "vengeance, persecution, misery," noun derivatives from the base of Germanic *wrekan- "to drive out, pursue" — more at wreak

Verb (1)

earlier, "to undergo shipwreck, cast ashore by shipwreck," derivative of wrack entry 1

Verb (2)

by alteration

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Time Traveler for wrack

Time Traveler

The first known use of wrack was in the 14th century

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Statistics for wrack

Last Updated

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Wrack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wrack. Accessed 27 May. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on wrack

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wrack

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wrack

Nglish: Translation of wrack for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wrack for Arabic Speakers

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