View synonyms for wreak


[ reek ]

verb (used with object)

  1. to inflict or execute (punishment, vengeance, etc.):

    They wreaked havoc on the enemy.

    Synonyms: unleash, vent, visit, inflict, impose

  2. to carry out the promptings of (one's rage, ill humor, will, desire, etc.), as on a victim or object:

    He wreaked his anger on the office staff.


/ riːk /


  1. to inflict (vengeance, etc) or to cause (chaos, etc)

    to wreak havoc on the enemy

  2. to express, or gratify (anger, hatred, etc)
  3. archaic.
    to take vengeance for

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Derived Forms

  • ˈwreaker, noun

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Other Words From

  • wreak·er noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of wreak1

First recorded before 900; Middle English wreken, Old English wrecan; cognate with German rächen “to avenge,” Old Norse reka “to drive, avenge,” Gothic wrikan “to persecute”; akin to Latin urgēre “to drive, push”

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Word History and Origins

Origin of wreak1

Old English wrecan; related to Old Frisian wreka, Old High German rehhan (German rächen ), Old Norse reka, Latin urgēre to push

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. wreak havoc. wreak havoc.

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Example Sentences

With coronavirus still wreaking havoc on the economy, social unrest scrambling consumer sentiment and marketers pressured to prove their spending is driving results, many are focusing their spending on programs happening just a few weeks out.

From Digiday

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the supply chains of companies around the world—prompting firms in 80% of sectors globally to recalibrate their operations in some fashion, according to analysts at Bank of America Global Research.

From Fortune

There’s a limit to how much news we can take in as the virus wreaks havoc on our health, economy, and social lives.

For example, researchers have documented how the sweltering waters can bleach corals and wreak havoc on kelp forests.

Keep in mind this brilliant marketing hack from McDonald’s for times when a seemingly minor customer complaint starts to wreak havoc for your business by going viral.

The mother also made a plea to the violent ones who wreak such havoc.

The Fox miniseries 24: Live Another Day saw a massive drone wreak havoc on London.

They eat more than 500 kinds of plants and could wreak havoc if released into the North American environment.

Watch the green-clad moustachioed menace wreak havoc in Mario Kart 8, blowing up Waluigi and then giving a “death stare.”

But this is nothing compared to the devastating havoc a default will probably wreak.

I am allowed to live only so long as I am a willing tool, and foolish enough to wreak their evil will upon my people.

Chaos is theirs, in which to wreak their mysterious vengeance: the den of the winds is more monstrous than that of lions.

It was one of the last acts of Gage to plan with the Admiral how to wreak vengeance on the inhabitants of both those ports.

Then she fell again to thinking of her wrongs and planning how she should wreak vengeance upon Margaret Edes.

I was lifted up and cried aloud in the joy of having someone on whom to wreak my vengeance.


Related Words

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Wreak Vs. Reek

What’s the difference between wreak and reek?

Wreak means to inflict or carry out something, especially something harmful—it’s most commonly used in the phrase wreak havoc, meaning to cause chaos or destruction or both. Reek most commonly means to give off a strong, unpleasant odor, as in Your socks reek, dude.

While wreak is only ever used as a verb, reek can also be used as a noun meaning a strong, unpleasant smell, though this use is much less common.

Wreak is always used with an object, usually some negative effect, as in The storm is expected to wreak destruction throughout the region.

Reek usually functions without an object, though in some cases it is followed by the word of and the particular smell, as in It reeks of onions in here. This is also the case when reek is used in a more figurative way meaning to be penetrated or saturated with something negative, as in This case reeks of corruption.

Wreak and reek are pronounced exactly the same, so it can be hard to remember which one is which, but you can remember that wreak begins with a w because it is often used in the context of things getting wrecked.

Here’s an example of wreak and reek used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: I like cooking with leeks, but my wife thinks they reek and says they wreak havoc on her ability to smell anything else.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between reeking and wreaking.

Quiz yourself on wreak vs. reek!

Should wreak or reek be used in the following sentence?

Don’t spray me with that stuff—I don’t want to _____ of cheap cologne!

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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