wreak

verb \ ˈrēk also ˈrek \
Updated on: 8 Dec 2017

Definition of wreak

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

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Examples of wreak in a Sentence

  1. Gangs have been wreaking mayhem in the city.

Recent Examples of wreak from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of 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.



WREAK Defined for English Language Learners

wreak

verb

Definition of wreak for English Language Learners

  • : to cause (something very harmful or damaging)


WREAK Defined for Kids

wreak

verb \ ˈrēk \

Definition of wreak for Students

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


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