- Wreak is to cause or inflict damage, harm or revenge.
When you cause significant damage, this is an example of a time when you wreak havoc.
- to give vent or free play to (one's anger, malice, rage, etc.)
- to inflict (vengeance), cause (harm or havoc), etc.
- Archaic to avenge
Origin of wreakMiddle English wreken ; from Old English wrecan, to revenge, punish, akin to German rächen, Gothic wrikan ; from Indo-European base an unverified form wreg-, to shove, oppress, hunt down, Classical Latin urgere, to press, urge
transitive verbwreaked, wreak·ing, wreaks
- To bring about (damage or destruction, for example): wreak havoc.
- To inflict (vengeance or punishment) upon a person.
- To give vent to or act upon (one's feelings): “He sought for some excuse to wreak his hatred upon Tarzan” (Edgar Rice Burroughs).
- Archaic To take vengeance for; avenge.
Origin of wreakMiddle English wreken, from Old English wrecan. Usage Note: Wreak is sometimes confused with wreck, perhaps because the wreaking of damage may leave a wreck: The storm wreaked (not wrecked&thin;) havoc along the coast. The past tense and past participle of wreak is wreaked, not wrought, which is an alternative past tense and past participle of work.
(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)
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 *wrekaną, from root *wrek-, from Proto-Indo-European *wreg- (“work, do”). Cognate via Proto-Germanic with Dutch wreken, German rächen, Swedish vräka; cognate via PIE with Latin urgere (English urge), and distantly cognate to English wreck.
- waker, wrake