wraith

noun
\ ˈrāth \
plural wraiths\ˈrāths alsoˈrāt͟hz \

Definition of wraith 

1a : the exact likeness of a living person seen usually just before death as an apparition

b : ghost, specter

2 : an insubstantial form or semblance : shadow

3 : a barely visible gaseous or vaporous column

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Other words from wraith

wraithlike \ˈrāth-ˌlīk \ 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 was called a "Doppelgänger" (literally, "double goers"); in Scottish lore, they were "wraiths." The exact origin of the word wraith is misty, however. Etymologists can only trace it back to its first use in an English text in 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 as well; 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

The winged wraith flew over the hacienda of Don Chico Vasquez, a man unimpressed by the folklore surrounding the lake. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Known Unknown: Tales of the Yucca Man," 25 Apr. 2018 McNamee kept monitoring the stairway as searchers descended, emerging like wraiths from the oily fog. Sean Flynn, Esquire, "The Perfect Fire," 9 Mar. 2017 What was the point of all that work, of the white man’s bisnis, if it could be obliterated by a distant wraith? Sean Flynn, Smithsonian, "The Reckoning," 23 Feb. 2018 And innocent Mary comes to love the wraith of a child she is hired to care for. Patty Rhule, USA TODAY, "Bad things happen to 'Good People' in Hannah Kent's eerie novel," 19 Sep. 2017 In the presence of this wraith, the villagers begin to exhume their own guilty secrets. Marilyn Stasio, New York Times, "Mythic Revenge, a Mythic Film and Possibly Mythic Memories," 1 Sep. 2017 There’s a simplicity to this 87-minute wraith of a movie that seems to demand bare-bones description rather than lavish praise. Dana Stevens, Slate Magazine, "This odd movie, starring Casey Affleck under a bedsheet, won’t scare you, but it will haunt you.," 5 July 2017 Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. Joanna Robinson, HWD, "Game of Thrones: The Massive Bombshell Hidden in Gilly’s Book," 13 Aug. 2017 Talion and the wraith of Elven Lord Celebrimbor return once again. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, "Preview: ‘Middle-earth: Shadow of War’ is ‘Lord of the Rings’ turned up to 11," 8 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wraith.' 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 wraith

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for wraith

origin unknown

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Dictionary Entries near wraith

wrack

wrackful

wrack grass

wraith

wrake

wran

wrang

Statistics for wraith

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Time Traveler for wraith

The first known use of wraith was in 1513

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More Definitions for wraith

wraith

noun

English Language Learners Definition of wraith

: the spirit of a dead person

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