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From Middle English wenche (girl; young maid), a shortened form of Middle English wenchel (girl; maiden; child), from Old English wenċel, winċel (child; servant; slave), from Proto-Germanic *wankilą, from Proto-Germanic *wankijaną (to sway; waver). Akin to Old High German wenken (to waver; yield; give way), Old High German wankōn (to totter).



wench (plural wenches)

  1. (archaic) A girl or young woman, esp a buxom or lively one: now used facetiously.
    • 1590, Sir Philip Sidney, Book 2:
      I, like a tẽder harted wench, shriked out for feare of the divell.
    • 1598, George Chapman, Homer's Iliad, Book I:
      Beside, this I affirm (afford
      Impression of it in thy soul) I will not use my sword
      On thee or any for a wench, unjustly though thou tak’st
      The thing thou gav’st []
    • 1604 or 05, William Shakespeare, Alls Well that Ends Well, Act IV, sc. 3:
      [] he weeps like a wench that had shed her
    • 1611, King James Version, II Samuel 17:17:
      Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by En-rogel; for they might not be seen to come into the city: and a wench went and told them; and they went and told king David.
    • 1726, Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, Chapter 33:
      He is usually governed by a decayed wench []
    • 1887, William Black, Sabina Zembra: A Novel, Chapter XXXVI:
      He was received by the daughter of the house, a pretty, buxom, blue-eyed little wench.
    • GORGEOUS BEER GIRL FANCY DRESS. Flirty Versatile Outfit Perfect for Oktoberfest Beer Girl, Heidi, Wench, Carnival and Halloween...
    • Jane played the role of a wench in an Elizabethan comedy.
  2. (archaic) A woman servant.
  3. (archaic) A promiscuous woman.
    • 1387 to 1400 Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, "The Manciple's Tale":
      Ther nys no difference, trewely,
      Bitwixe a wyf that is of heigh degree,
      If of hir body dishonest she bee,
      And a povre wenche, oother than thisֵ—
      If it so be they werke bothe amys—
      But that the gentile, in estaat above,
      She shal be cleped his lady, as in love;
      And for that oother is a povre womman,
      She shal be cleped his wenche or his lemman []
    • 1589 or 90, Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, Act IV:
      FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed—
      BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country;
      And besides, the wench is dead.
    • 1702, [Matthew Prior], "To a Young Gentleman in Love" (Originally double-sided, anonymous pamphlet, printed for J. Tonson):
      Whilst Men have these Ambitious Fancies,
      And wanton Wenches read Romances;
      Our Sex will be innur'd to lye,
      And theirs instructed to reply.
    • 1722, [Richard Stelle], Spectator No. 266, Friday, February 4, 1722:
      It must not thought to be a Digression from my intended Speculation, to talk of Bawds in a discourse upon Wenches; for a Woman of the Town is not thoroughly and properly such, without having gone through the Education of one of these Houses.
  4. (archaic) A prostitute.
  5. (US, dated) A black woman; a negress.
    • 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Chapter VIII:
      Now, I bought a gal once, when I was in the trade,—a tight, likely wench she was, too, and quite considerable smart []

Derived terms[edit]




wench (third-person singular simple present wenches, present participle wenching, simple past and past participle wenched)

  1. (intransitive) To frequent prostitutes; to womanize.
    • Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald
      Already, you see, I had begun to acquire a taste for rakery and wenching among the London debutantes.



wench (comparative wencher, superlative wenchest)

  1. (slang) attractive, good-looking