\ ˈrēk How to pronounce wreak (audio) also ˈrek How to pronounce wreak (audio) \
wreaked; wreaking; wreaks

Definition of wreak

transitive verb

1 : bring about, cause wreak havoc
2a : to cause the infliction of (vengeance or punishment)
b archaic : avenge
3 : to give free play or course to (malevolent feeling)

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Did You Know?

Wreak is a venerable word that first appeared in Old English as wrecan, meaning "to drive, drive out, punish, or avenge." "Wrecan" is related to a number of similar words in the Germanic languages, including Middle Dutch "wreken" ("to punish, avenge"), Old High German rehhan ("to avenge"), Old Norse "reka" ("to drive, push, or avenge"), and Gothic "wrikan" ("to persecute"). It may also be related to Latin urgēre ("to drive on, urge"), the source of the English verb "urge." In modern English, vengeance is a common object of the verb "wreak," reflecting one of its earlier uses in the sense "to take vengeance for" - as when Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus proclaims "We will solicit heaven, and move the gods / To send down Justice for to wreak our wrongs."

Examples of wreak in a Sentence

Gangs have been wreaking mayhem in the city.
Recent Examples on the Web The release stated that Noack is aware of the high monetary costs of the damage feral hogs can wreak. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Noack green lights feral hog trapping pilot program in Woodlands," 17 Jan. 2020 Some of you might think the Schiff Show has been a valuable exercise in saving the republic just so that Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders or the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, can wreak their will upon it and upon the economy. John Kass, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Adam Schiff plays the hero in Trump Impeachment Theater farce," 14 Nov. 2019 Besides food and health risks, widespread threats to agriculture can wreak economic havoc, Rudolph said. Judith Kohler, The Denver Post, "Group urging beefed up protection against biological threats meets at CSU to look at risks to agriculture," 5 Nov. 2019 The reality is that injuries can wreak havoc with everything a team has worked for, especially these Terps, who went into the season with little experience on the offensive line and at cornerback. Don Markus, baltimoresun.com, "Inside the Maryland football team’s development: How Mike Locksley and his staff prepare players for game day," 28 Oct. 2019 Anyone who has resisted the urge to commit road rage knows brutal commutes can wreak havoc on psychological health. Cindy Krischer Goodman, sun-sentinel.com, "Brutal commute? Don’t let it wreck your health," 26 Sep. 2019 This Is What Happens When an E-Cigarette Explodes in Your Mouth Vaping can wreak havoc on your entire cardiovascular system. Maggie O'neill, Health.com, "The Dangers of Vaping Doctors Want Everyone to Know," 12 Sep. 2019 Hear Peace Custom & Electronic Ear Protection $65 & $799, Lainie Ortman, 216-559-4444; hear.peacetexas@gmail.com Things that go bang can wreak havoc on one’s hearing, leading to tinnitus and hearing loss. John Goodspeed, ExpressNews.com, "Scouting interesting stuff to make hunts more fun," 12 Sep. 2019 In perhaps the perfect example of the havoc that September rosters can wreak, here’s what Boston’s bullpen looked like last Wednesday, courtesy of Cut4’s Adrian Garro: [redsoxbullpenimage] That’s a lot of guys! Jon Tayler, SI.com, "The New World of Cost-Conscious Baseball Has No Room for Dave Dombrowski," 10 Sep. 2019

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

History and Etymology for wreak

Middle English wreken "to drive out, avenge, vent, express (anger, etc.)," going back to Old English wrecan "to press forward, drive out, banish, avenge, punish," going back to Germanic *wrekan- "to drive out, pursue" (whence Old Saxon wrekan "to avenge," Old High German rehhan, Old Norse reka "to drive, thrust, take vengeance," Gothic wrikan "to persecute"), of uncertain origin

Note: Placed by some under Indo-European *u̯reg- "follow a track" (whence, allegedly, Sanskrit vrajant- "wandering," Latin urgēre "to press, weigh down"), though the semantic relations between compared forms are not close.

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Time Traveler for wreak

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The first known use of wreak was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Wreak.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wreak. Accessed 27 January 2020.

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More Definitions for wreak


How to pronounce wreak (audio) How to pronounce wreak (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of wreak

: to cause (something very harmful or damaging)


\ ˈrēk How to pronounce wreak (audio) \
wreaked; wreaking

Kids Definition of wreak

: to bring down as or as if punishment The storm wreaked destruction.

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More from Merriam-Webster on wreak

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wreak

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wreak

Spanish Central: Translation of wreak

Nglish: Translation of wreak for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wreak for Arabic Speakers

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one that suddenly gains wealth or power

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