(third-person singular simple present wreaks, present participle wreaking, simple past wreaked, wrought (erroneously), or rarely wroke, past participle wreaked, wrought (erroneously) or rarely wroken)
- To cause, inflict or let out, especially if causing harm or injury.
- The earthquake wreaked havoc in the city.
- She wreaked her anger on his car.
- (archaic) To inflict or take vengeance on.
- (archaic) To take vengeance for.
The verb wreak is generally used in the form “wreak damage or harm of some sort (on something)", and is often used in the set phrase wreak havoc, though “wreak damage", “wreak destruction", and “wreak revenge" are also common.
Not to be confused with wreck, with similar meaning of destruction and similar etymological roots; common confusion in misspelling wreck havoc.
It has become common to use wrought, the original past tense and participle for work, as the past tense and past participle for wreak, as in wrought havoc (i.e. worked havoc for wreaked havoc), due both to the fact that the weak form worked has edged out wrought from its former role almost entirely (except as an adjective referring usually to hand-worked metal goods), and via confusion from the wr- beginning both wreak and wrought, and probably by analogy with seek).
Old English wrecan, from Proto-Germanic *wrekanÄ…, from root *wrek-, from Proto-Indo-European *wreg- (“work, do"). Cognate via Proto-Germanic with Dutch wreken, German rÃ¤chen, Swedish vrÃ¤ka; cognate via PIE with Latin urgere (English urge), and distantly cognate to English wreck.
From Middle English wreke, wrake, Northern Middle English variants of wreche, influenced later by Etymology 1, above. Compare Dutch wraak.