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Wreak (third-person singular simple present wreaks, present participle wreaking, simple past wreaked or rarely wroke, past participle wreaked or rarely wroken)

  1. (transitive) To cause, inflict or let out, especially if causing harm or injury.
    The earthquake wreaked havoc in the city.
    She wreaked her anger on his car.
  2. (archaic) To inflict or take vengeance on.


The verb wreak is generally used in the form “wreak damage or harm of some sort (on something)”, and is often used in the set phrase wreak havoc, though “wreak damage”, “wreak destruction”, and “wreak revenge” are also common.

Not to be confused with wreck, with similar meaning of destruction and similar etymological roots; common confusion in misspelling *wreck havoc.

Derived terms


Wreak (plural Wreaks)
  1. (obsolete) Punishment; retribution, revenge.
    • 1885: Of a surety none murdered the damsel but I; take her wreak on me this moment — Sir Richard Burton, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Night 19


accomplish, achieve, bring, bring about, bring off, bring to pass, bring upon, commit, do, do to, effect, effectuate, force, go and do, impose, inflict, make, pay, perpetrate, produce, pull off, realize, render, take and do, up and do, visit, visit upon, wreck


Etymology 1

Old English wrecan, from Proto-Germanic *wrekanan, from root *wrek-, from Proto-Indo-European *wreg- (work, do).[1] Cognate via Proto-Germanic with Dutch wreken, German rächen, Swedish vräka; cognate via PIE with Latin urgere (English urge), and distantly cognate to English wreck.

Etymology 2

A Northern variant of wreche, influenced later by Etymology 1, above.




  1. Wreak” in the Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper, 2001