a deplorably unfortunate or unhappy person.
a person of despicable or base character.

Origin of wretch

before 900; Middle English wrecche, Old English wrecca exile, adventurer; cognate with German Recke warrior, hero, Old Norse rekkr man
Can be confusedretch wretch
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wretch

Contemporary Examples of wretch

Historical Examples of wretch

  • Often he cursed himself as a wretch for paining that pure and noble heart.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • While my brother and sister Mr. Solmes'd him, and Sirr'd—yet such a wretch!

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • As to that wretch's perseverance, those only, who know not the man, will wonder at it.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • "You may have known me as Ahmed Antoun," said the wretch, not dreaming of that slip he had made.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • I wonder not that the wretch is said to love you the better for it.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

British Dictionary definitions for wretch



a despicable person
a person pitied for his misfortune

Word Origin for wretch

Old English wrecca; related to Old Saxon wrekkeo, Old High German reccheo (German Recke warrior), Old Norse rek (n) ingr
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 wretch

Old English wrecca "wretch, stranger, exile," from Proto-Germanic *wrakjan (cf. Old Saxon wrekkio, Old High German reckeo "a banished person, exile," German recke "renowned warrior, hero"), related to Old English wreccan "to drive out, punish" (see wreak). Sense of "vile, despicable person" developed in Old English, reflecting the sorry state of the outcast, as presented in much of Anglo-Saxon verse (e.g. "The Wanderer"). Cf. German Elend "misery," from Old High German elilenti "sojourn in a foreign land, exile."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper