[ reek ]
/ rik /
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See synonyms for: wreak / wrought on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
to inflict or execute (punishment, vengeance, etc.): They wreaked havoc on the enemy.
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.
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Idioms about wreak

    wreak havoc. See entry at wreak havoc.

Origin of wreak

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”


wreak·er, noun


wreak , wreck
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


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!

How to use wreak in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for wreak

/ (riːk) /

verb (tr)
to inflict (vengeance, etc) or to cause (chaos, etc)to wreak havoc on the enemy
to express, or gratify (anger, hatred, etc)
archaic to take vengeance for

Derived forms of wreak

wreaker, noun

Word Origin for wreak

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

undefined wreak

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