wreak

verb
\ 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

In fact, beekeeper error isn't the only common cause of death—pests, especially certain kinds of mice, can also wreak havoc on your hives. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "Beekeeping for Beginners: Everything to Know About Starting Your Own Colony," 5 Apr. 2019 Archie's vigilante group turned mafia squad goes a little crazy when Hiram starts paying them to wreak havoc on Riverdale, including slashing tires and setting fires on the Southside. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "A Comprehensive List of All of Hiram Lodge's Schemes on "Riverdale"," 13 Dec. 2018 That film is about an unhinged, spurned mistress who uses the levers of reputation to wreak havoc on an irresponsible but ultimately redeemable man. Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "In Dirty John, Connie Britton Brings a Cautionary Tale to Life—And According to Her, the Timing’s Never Been Better to Talk About Con Men," 23 Nov. 2018 Unsurprisingly, SUVs are continuing to wreak havoc on the roads. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Fewer people died in car crashes in 2017, but the outlook is still grim," 3 Oct. 2018 When a team banks enough motes (25 and 50), a portal opens, and one player can jump through to the other team’s map to wreak havoc. Aaron Zimmerman, Ars Technica, "Destiny 2: Forsaken review: Hallelujah, Destiny’s back," 19 Sep. 2018 The aftermath of Florence continues to wreak havoc on the Carolinas, bringing record flooding to many areas. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Don’t Forget About the Victims of Hurricane Florence," 18 Sep. 2018 And yet, a student with horrible intentions still managed to wreak havoc. Lara Sorokanich, Popular Mechanics, "What Littleton Learned," 1 Aug. 2018 Hale was blonde before this—dyeing your hair such a dramatic, deep shade can wreak havoc and feel a bit harsh on your texture. Maya Allen, Marie Claire, "Lucy Hale Has Brown Hair Again—This Time, With a Razor-Sharp Bob," 12 Mar. 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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Dictionary Entries near wreak

wrathy

wrawl

wraxle

wreak

wreakful

wreak havoc

wreath

Statistics for wreak

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for wreak

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

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More Definitions for wreak

wreak

verb

English Language Learners Definition of wreak

: to cause (something very harmful or damaging)

wreak

verb
\ 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wreak

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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