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verb (used with object)
  1. to twist or turn; pull, jerk, or force by a violent twist.
  2. to take away by force: to wrest a knife from a child.
  3. to get by effort: to wrest a living from the soil.
  4. to twist or turn from the proper course, application, use, meaning, or the like; wrench.
  1. a wresting; twist or wrench.
  2. a key or small wrench for tuning stringed musical instruments, as the harp or piano, by turning the pins to which the strings are fastened.

Origin of wrest

before 1000; (v.) Middle English wresten, Old English wrǣstan; cognate with Old Norse reista; akin to wrist; (noun) Middle English: a wresting, derivative of the v.
Related formswrest·er, nounun·wrest·ed, adjectiveun·wrest·ing, adjective
Can be confusedrest wrest

Synonyms for wrest

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1, 3. wring. 3. See extract.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for wrest


verb (tr)
  1. to take or force away by violent pulling or twisting
  2. to seize forcibly by violent or unlawful means
  3. to obtain by laborious effort
  4. to distort in meaning, purpose, etc
  1. the act or an instance of wresting
  2. archaic a small key used to tune a piano or harp
Derived Formswrester, noun

Word Origin for wrest

Old English wrǣstan; related to Old Norse reista. See writhe
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 wrest

Old English wræstan "to twist, wrench," from Proto-Germanic *wraistijanan (cf. Old Norse reista "to bend, twist"), derivative of *wrig-, *wreik- "to turn" (see wry). Meaning "to pull, detach" (something) is recorded from c.1300. Meaning "to take by force" (in reference to power, authority, etc.) is attested from early 15c. Related: Wrested; wresting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper