\ ˈrāth How to pronounce wraith (audio) \
plural wraiths\ ˈrāths How to pronounce wraiths (audio) also  ˈrāt͟hz How to pronounce wraiths (audio) \

Definition of wraith

1a : the exact likeness of a living person seen usually just before death as an apparition
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 How to pronounce wraithlike (audio) \ 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 All of a sudden the wraith has materialised—not out of concern for the climate, as oilmen feared, but because of covid-19. The Economist, "The collapse An unprecedented plunge in oil demand will turn the industry upside down," 8 Apr. 2020 Here Myrtha was performed with one-note efficiency and unmemorable impact by lean, wraith-like Angelina Vlashinets. Robert Greskovic, WSJ, "‘Giselle’ Review: Seeing an Old Dance Anew," 28 Jan. 2020 Cancer transformed Wu from a baby-faced boy to a sallow wraith immobilized on a gurney. Washington Post, "China has pain pill addicts too, but no one’s counting them," 31 Dec. 2019 The artist’s eye, like a wraith’s, seems to hover in midair. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: A former pillar of the fashion world crafts compelling art," 25 Oct. 2019 This was a wraith of a Giselle from the very beginning. Jack Anderson, New York Times, "Alicia Alonso, Star of Cuba’s National Ballet, Dies at 98," 17 Oct. 2019 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

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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The first known use of wraith was in 1513

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Cite this Entry

“Wraith.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wraith. Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for wraith


How to pronounce wraith (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of wraith

: the spirit of a dead person

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More from Merriam-Webster on wraith

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wraith

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wraith

Nglish: Translation of wraith for Spanish Speakers

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