verb (used without object)

to make efforts to vomit.

verb (used with object)

to vomit.


the act or an instance of retching.

Origin of retch

1540–50; variant of reach, Old English hrǣcan to clear the throat (not recorded in ME), derivative of hrāca a clearing of the throat; compare Old Norse hrǣkja to hawk, spit
Can be confusedretch wretch Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for retch

Historical Examples of retch

  • But a spasm of disgust at the uncleanness of the task to be done made me retch and pause.

    John Splendid

    Neil Munro

  • He retch he han' in, he did, en git some en put it in he mouf.

    Nights With Uncle Remus

    Joel Chandler Harris

  • So I retch me a fine bunch of hick'ries I done prepared for dat 'casion.

    The Wit of Women

    Kate Sanborn

  • Cramps assailed him and he clamped his jaws against the desire to retch.

    A Witch Shall Be Born

    Robert E. Howard

  • The woman, Mercedes Valdar, seemed to catch some of Retch's excitement.

    Sinister Paradise

    Robert Moore Williams

British Dictionary definitions for retch



(intr) to undergo an involuntary spasm of ineffectual vomiting; heave
to vomit


an involuntary spasm of ineffectual vomiting

Word Origin for retch

Old English hrǣcan; related to Old Norse hrǣkja to spit
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

Word Origin and History for retch

1540s, originally "to clear the throat, to cough up phlegm," from Old English hræcan "to cough up, spit" (related to hraca "phlegm"), from Proto-Germanic *khrækijanan (cf. Old High German rahhison "to clear one's throat"), of imitative origin (cf. Lithuanian kregeti "to grunt"). Meaning "to make efforts to vomit" is from 1850; sense of "to vomit" is first attested 1888. Related: Retched; retching.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

retch in Medicine




To try to vomit.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.