\ 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 Coming ashore in southwestern Florida, Wilma drew fuel from the moisture of the Everglades and stormed in through South Florida’s back door, wreaking havoc and destruction throughout the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach corridor. Brett Clarkson, sun-sentinel.com, "Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida 14 years ago today. Is that the latest a hurricane has hit us?," 24 Oct. 2019 This is important because past El Niños — especially strong ones — have wreaked weather havoc around the world. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "El Niño weather events are about to become more extreme thanks to climate change, study says," 22 Oct. 2019 Harper and Rowan dominated most of the match, absolutely wreaking havoc on both, but especially Daniel Bryan. Aaron Oster, baltimoresun.com, "WWE’s Hell in a Cell ending draws ire of fans," 7 Oct. 2019 The two running backs utilized jet sweeps and unleashed the Wildcat to combine for more than 200 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, wreaking havoc on the Bengals’ defensive front. Alaa Abdeldaiem, Sports Illustrated, "Mason Rudolph Takes Full Command of Offense in Steelers' Onslaught of Bengals," 1 Oct. 2019 Twelve months have passed since an overpressurized gas line on Columbia Gas’s system wreaked havoc in the three Merrimack Valley communities, and the local business community is still putting the pieces back together. BostonGlobe.com, "Business recovery efforts continue, one year after the Merrimack Valley explosions - The Boston Globe," 13 Sep. 2019 Her story about the Carnival of Doom comes to life, wreaking havoc for the horror-loving bunch. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?," 13 Sep. 2019 The endocrine system, when not in working order, can wreak havoc on many functions within the body. chicagotribune.com, "Thyroid-related headaches and CBD: a new solution to an old problem," 11 Sep. 2019 One person even recalled how doing this as an adolescent wreaked havoc. Kaleigh Fasanella, Teen Vogue, "Bella Thorne Shared How She Treats Acne Scars," 29 Aug. 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

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

13 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Wreak.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wreaked. Accessed 22 November 2019.

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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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