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[reeth] /riθ/
noun, plural wreaths
[reeth z, reeths] /riðz, riθs/ (Show IPA)
a circular band of flowers, foliage, or any ornamental work, for adorning the head or for any decorative purpose; a garland or chaplet.
any ringlike, curving, or curling mass or formation:
a wreath of clouds.
  1. a curved section of a handrail.
  2. Also called wreathpiece. a curved section of a string.
verb (used with or without object)
to wreathe.
Origin of wreath
before 1000; Middle English wrethe, Old English writha something wound or coiled; akin to writhe
Related forms
wreathlike, adjective
Can be confused
wraith, wreath, wreathe, writhe.


[reeth] /rið/
verb (used with object), wreathed; wreathed or (Archaic) wreathen; wreathing.
to encircle or adorn with or as with a wreath.
to form as a wreath by twisting or twining.
to surround in curving or curling masses or form.
to envelop:
a face wreathed in smiles.
verb (used without object), wreathed; wreathed or (Archaic) wreathen; wreathing.
to take the form of a wreath or wreaths.
to move in curving or curling masses, as smoke.
1520-30; earlier wrethe, partly v. use of wreath, partly back formation from wrethen, obsolete past participle of writhe
Related forms
wreather, noun
interwreathe, verb, interwreathed, interwreathing.
Can be confused
wraith, wreath, wreathe, writhe. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for wreathing
Historical Examples
  • Tissue-paper is too soft and thin for wreathing the bars of grates.

  • Abra is introduced in a grove, wreathing a flowery chaplet for her hair.

  • The frost-smoke is wreathing the red zone of our southern horizon.

  • The valley was far in the rear, hidden by the wreathing mists.

    The Mosstrooper Robert Scott Fittis
  • The mist was rising, and wreathing the colored woods with white.

    A Northern Countryside Rosalind Richards
  • The flower nodded, too, as if moved by the breeze that was wreathing the smoke over all the roofs.

    The Rich Little Poor Boy Eleanor Gates
  • She held up an ancient brass knocker, a smiling faun's head encircled in wreathing vines.

    Kit of Greenacre Farm

    Izola Forrester
  • Across the face of the country, wisps and attenuated clouds of smoke were wreathing their way up and melting in the blue.

    The Code of the Mountains Charles Neville Buck
  • Her face was flushed with excitement and, to judge by her wreathing smiles, with happiness.

    Aurora the Magnificent Gertrude Hall
  • The “Royal March” of Italy was played, first baldly, then with manifold clinging and wreathing variations.

    Aurora the Magnificent Gertrude Hall
British Dictionary definitions for wreathing


noun (pl) wreaths (riːðz; riːθs)
a band of flowers or foliage intertwined into a ring, usually placed on a grave as a memorial or worn on the head as a garland or a mark of honour
any circular or spiral band or formation
a spiral or circular defect appearing in porcelain and glassware
Derived Forms
wreathless, adjective
wreathlike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English wrǣth, wrǣd; related to Middle Low German wrēden to twist. See writhe


to form into or take the form of a wreath by intertwining or twisting together
(transitive) to decorate, crown, or encircle with wreaths
to move or cause to move in a twisting way: smoke wreathed up to the ceiling
Word Origin
C16: perhaps back formation from wrēthen, from Old English writhen, past participle of wrīthan to writhe; see wreath
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for wreathing



Old English wriða "fillet, bandage, band" (literally "that which is wound around"), from Proto-Germanic *writhon (cf. Old Norse riða, Danish vride, Old High German ridan "to turn, twist," Old Saxon, Old Frisian wreth "angry," Dutch wreed "rough, harsh, cruel," Old High German reid "twisted," Old Norse reiða "angry"), from PIE *wreit- "to turn, bend" (cf. Old English wriða "band," wriðan "to twist, torture," wraþ "angry"), from root *wer- (3) "to turn, bend" (see versus). Meaning "ring or garland of flowers" is first recorded 1560s.



1520s, a back-formation from wrethen, Middle English past participle of writhe. Related: Wreathed; wreathing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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