wretch·​ed ˈre-chəd How to pronounce wretched (audio)
: deeply afflicted, dejected, or distressed in body or mind
: extremely or deplorably bad or distressing
was in wretched health
a wretched accident
: being or appearing mean, miserable, or contemptible
dressed in wretched old clothes
: very poor in quality or ability : inferior
wretched workmanship
wretchedly adverb
wretchedness noun

Examples of wretched in a Sentence

The slums were filled with poor, wretched children. I don't know what's wrong with her, but she looks wretched. families living in wretched poverty the wretched conditions of the refugee camp How did we get into this wretched state of affairs? What a wretched performance that was. That movie was positively wretched. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Recognizing that God continues to bless me not withstanding my wretched and unpredictable surroundings; expressing sincere gratitude has been my most effective coping mechanism. Dave Quinn, Peoplemag, 16 Feb. 2024 One that evades both chaos and the wretched trap of monolithic power by kings or priesthoods … or corporate oligarchs … or Skynet monsters. WIRED, 6 July 2023 But Haley’s legacy lives on, in wretched figures on infant and maternal mortality and uninsured rates. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2024 One curious feature of Hollywood sociology is that people who write movies may be wretched, powerless, and replaceable, but in television the writer is king. Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, 25 Dec. 2023 But whatever commonalities there are between Mickey Rourke’s performance in that movie and Efron’s here, the actors’ displays of a wretched physicality are differently framed. Lauren Michele Jackson, The New Yorker, 22 Dec. 2023 Cooper’s script, co-written with Josh Singer (Spotlight, The Post, First Man, all wretched), prevaricates shamelessly through quasi–Harold Pinter style in which Bernstein and associates avoid directly addressing anything. Armond White, National Review, 22 Dec. 2023 For her, of seemingly limitless patience, no human drama was too insignificant, too tawdry, too wretched or alien. Aatish Taseer, New York Times, 9 Nov. 2023 More of it stemmed from the wretched humanity of the characters trapped within this sadistic world. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wretched.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English wrecched, expansion (with -ed -ed entry 1) of wrecche, adjective, in same sense, going back to Old English wrecc, derivative from the base of wræcca, wrecce "exile, stranger, despicable person" — more at wretch

First Known Use

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of wretched was in the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near wretched

Cite this Entry

“Wretched.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wretched. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


wretch·​ed ˈrech-əd How to pronounce wretched (audio)
: very miserable or unhappy
: causing misery or distress
that wretched accident
: deserving of hatred or disgust
a wretched trick
: very poor in quality or ability
wretched work
wretchedly adverb
wretchedness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on wretched

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