plural wraiths ˈrāths How to pronounce wraith (audio)
ˈrāt͟hz How to pronounce wraith (audio)
: the exact likeness of a living person seen usually just before death as an apparition
: an insubstantial form or semblance : shadow
: a barely visible gaseous or vaporous column
wraithlike adjective

Did you know?

If you see your own double, you're in trouble, at least if you believe old superstitions. The belief that a ghostly twin's appearance portends death is one common to many cultures. In German folklore, such an apparition is called a Doppelgänger (literally, "double goer"); in Scottish lore, they are wraiths. The exact origin of the word wraith is misty, however, and etymologists can only trace it back to the early 16th century—in particular to a 1513 translation of Virgil's Aeneid by Gavin Douglas (the Scotsman used wraith to name apparitions of both the dead and the living). In current English, wraith has taken on additional, less spooky, meanings; it now often suggests a shadowy—but not necessarily scary—lack of substance.

Examples of wraith in a Sentence

the people who once lived here believed that their world was populated by wraiths and witches
Recent Examples on the Web In theory, Netflix’s Dead Boy Detectives should be a feast for the misery wraiths, faceless creatures who feed on pain and suffering. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 Apr. 2024 Indeed, Moore is writing in a treacherous emotional realm here, and her story moves with no more predictability than a wraith. Ron Charles, Washington Post, 13 June 2023 Christian Bale, his hairless body wraith-pale and lips blackened like a day-walking Nosferatu, has been handed the villain's mantle this time as Gorr the God Butcher, a vessel of vengeance armed with a death-list for misbehaving deities and an immortal blade called the Necrosword. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 8 July 2022 He’s become a rail-thin, wraith-like presence with lush, mid-back-length gray hair, living a seemingly marginal existence in a cluttered Stockholm apartment. Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times, 23 Sep. 2021 Diana was capable of transforming herself from galumphing schoolgirl to ice queen, from wraith to Amazon. Elaine Showalter, The New Republic, 30 Sep. 2022 These include wraith motels, ghoul detectors and even specter silencers. Joe Queenan, WSJ, 30 July 2022 Bald, covered in scars, and draped in monklike robes, Gorr (played by Christian Bale) is a vengeful wraith who wields a mystical blade and has only one goal in mind: killing gods. David Sims, The Atlantic, 5 July 2022 There are shots of people drowning, scary wraith-like figures menacing kids in a fight, and the band members delivering babies as the sands of time surround them — all in reverse. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 10 Mar. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wraith.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of wraith was in 1513


Dictionary Entries Near wraith

Cite this Entry

“Wraith.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wraith. Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: ghost
: a bodiless appearance : shadow

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