\ ˈrech How to pronounce wretch (audio) \

Definition of wretch

1 : a miserable person : one who is profoundly unhappy or in great misfortune
2 : a base, despicable, or vile person

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Examples of wretch in a Sentence

The poor wretch lost his job. the clerk was an ungrateful wretch who stole money from his employer's cash register
Recent Examples on the Web Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. Tyrone Beason / Columnist, The Seattle Times, "Total Experience Gospel Choir’s last days: Pat Wright built legacy with gusto of a freedom fighter," 1 Oct. 2018 While many superhero shows continue to traffic in one-dimensional super villains, the sophisticated dramas give us more ambiguous wretches. Matthew Gilbert, BostonGlobe.com, "The best villains on TV," 6 July 2018 Smart security services may see, on smart video, that their populations get restive—but that doesn’t mean the wretches actually stop. Bruce Sterling, The Atlantic, "Stop Saying 'Smart Cities'," 12 Feb. 2018 Amazing grace saved a wretch like him and ended slavery in Great Britain. Anchorage Daily News, "Take heart, Alaskans, for the spirit of the season prevails," 23 Dec. 2017 Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, that thou mayst shake the superflux to them, and show the heavens more just. Alexandra Alter, New York Times, "Edward St. Aubyn on the Challenge of Reimagining Shakespeare," 28 Sep. 2017 Ink-stained wretch A Cleveland Indians fan named David Allen got a tattoo of Chief Wahoo on his leg about 20 years ago. David Whitley, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Pole-dancing would be an Olympic eye-catcher," 21 Oct. 2017 Immediately an unearthly chorus of wails answered the poor wretch from his friends outside the walls. William Gurstelle, Popular Mechanics, "The Most Gruesome Government Report Ever Written Evaluates 34 Ways to Execute a Man," 16 Mar. 2017 Scaramucci has a plan for winning over the pitiful wretches, however. Vanityfair.com, VanityFair.com, "Top Trump Adviser: Non-Rich Congressmen “Are F--king Jackasses”," 23 Jan. 2017

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for wretch

Middle English wrecche, going back to Old English wræcca, wrecce "exile, stranger, despicable person," going back to Germanic *wrakjan- "someone pursued, exile" (whence Old Saxon wrekkio "stranger," Old High German reccho, reccheo, recko "person banished, stranger"), noun derivative of *wrekan- "to pursue" — more at wreak

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Time Traveler for wretch

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for wretch

Cite this Entry

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

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More Definitions for wretch


How to pronounce wretch (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of wretch

: a very unhappy or unlucky person
: a very bad or unpleasant person


\ ˈrech How to pronounce wretch (audio) \

Kids Definition of wretch

1 : a miserable unhappy person
2 : a very bad person You're an ungrateful wretch.

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More from Merriam-Webster on wretch

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wretch

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wretch

Spanish Central: Translation of wretch

Nglish: Translation of wretch for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wretch for Arabic Speakers

Comments on wretch

What made you want to look up wretch? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that suddenly gains wealth or power

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