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

James Holzhauer — the professional sports gambler from Las Vegas — continues to wreak havoc on Jeopardy!, racking up money totals in each game that have been all but unseen in the show’s history. Michelle R. Martinelli, For The Win, "Jeopardy! Tracker: James Holzhauer's final stats, cash totals after 32-game win streak," 4 June 2019 Powerful tornadoes hit Missouri on Wednesday, ravaging a three-square-mile area of the state capital and killing three people in the state’s southwest, as dangerous storms continued to wreak havoc across the Great Plains this week. Joe Barrett, WSJ, "Powerful Tornadoes Hit Missouri," 23 May 2019 In hockey, even the slow drizzle or misty mornings that permeate our outdoors in non-summer months can wreak serious havoc on ice surfaces and pose a safety hazard to players. Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times, "Outdoor NHL game in Seattle? As good a chance as the new team being named ‘Kraken’," 14 Jan. 2019 But its themes resonate particularly loudly a year into Trump’s presidency, as ideological polarization continues to wreak havoc upon the social fabric of our communities. Aja Romano, Vox, "Why A Quiet Place is the apocalyptic movie America needed," 27 Apr. 2018 Noon update Winds ticked up over the last hour and continue wreaking havoc around the region. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, "Dangerous, long duration wind storm rakes Washington region with 60 to 70 mph gusts," 2 Mar. 2018 Prepare to lose it once more when Mary goes blind (still not over this), happy cry during Laura's wedding to Almanzo Wilder, and throw popcorn at your TV when an anthrax outbreak wreaks havoc on the pastoral Walnut Grove. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "'Little House on the Prairie' Is Now Streaming on Amazon So Cancel Your Weekend Plans," 6 Mar. 2019 This was, finally, the return of the pure havoc that Curry and Durant should wreak together. Ben Golliver, SI.com, "Steph Curry and Kevin Durant Put Their Tug-of-War Behind Them," 4 June 2018 Saquon Barkley: NFL Draft 2018 video profile Jackson also said at the meetings that he's envisioned Chubb wreaking havoc on quarterbacks opposite Myles Garrett. Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland.com, "Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb and Minkah Fitzpatrick not among Browns' 30 draft visits or private workouts," 12 Apr. 2018

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

12 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

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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