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.

Origin of wreak

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
Related formswreak·er, noun
Can be confusedrack wrack wreak wreckracked wracked wreaked wrecked

Synonyms for wreak

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for wreaks

wreck, inflict, unleash, vent, execute, create, work, visit, effect, exercise

Examples from the Web for wreaks

Contemporary Examples of wreaks

  • As long as the regime shells at will and wreaks havoc on the area, rebel control is only partial.

    The Daily Beast logo
    In War Against Assad, Death Comes From Above

    Clare Morgana Gillis

    August 26, 2012

  • If so, a disaster would happen as Gaddafi wreaks revenge on his own people.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Can Arabs Save Libya?

    Bruce Riedel

    March 12, 2011

  • Purchased by a wealthy, unhappy, and clueless suburban couple, this self-possessed Emily wreaks sexually charged havoc.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Emily Dickinson's Racy Side

    Donna Seaman

    March 1, 2010

  • Parkinson's wreaks havoc by affecting nerve cells in the brain that make the neurotransmitter called dopamine.

    The Daily Beast logo
    A Bicycle Built for Parkinson's Relief

    Daily Beast Promotions

    December 11, 2009

Historical Examples of wreaks

  • How dreadful are its torments, when it wreaks all its anger upon the guilty!

  • This social writer has scorn, as an author should, and he wreaks it upon parishes.

    Ceres' Runaway

    Alice Meynell

  • Surely a God who wreaks vengeance for one man's sin upon his innocent children cannot be a God of Justice!

    The Incarnate Purpose

    G. H. Percival

  • For from one to two months in the spring, floating ice gives a great deal of trouble and wreaks disaster to the pontoon.

    The Conquest

    Oscar Micheaux

  • Mr. Magoon is a writer of great fluency and sensibility, who "wreaks" his thoughts upon expression.

British Dictionary definitions for wreaks


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 Formswreaker, 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


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 wreaks



Old English wrecan "avenge," originally "to drive, drive out, punish" (class V strong verb; past tense wræc, past participle wrecen), from Proto-Germanic *wrekanan (cf. Old Saxon wrekan, Old Norse reka, Old Frisian wreka, Middle Dutch wreken "to drive, push, compel, pursue, throw," Old High German rehhan, German rächen "to avenge," Gothic wrikan "to persecute"), from PIE root *werg- "to work, to do" (cf. Lithuanian vergas "distress," vergas "slave;" Old Church Slavonic vragu "enemy;" Latin urgere; see urge (v.)). Meaning "inflict or take vengeance," with on, is recorded from late 15c.; that of "inflict or cause (damage or destruction)" is attested from 1817.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper