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First attested 1513, in a Middle Scots translation of the Aeneid.[1][2][3]

The word has no certain etymology. J. R. R. Tolkien favored a link with writhe. Also compared are Scots warth and Old Norse vǫrðr (watcher, guardian), whence Icelandic vörður (guard). See also wray/bewray, from Middle English wreien. Perhaps from wrath as a wraith is a vengeful spirit.

This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.
Particularly: “Car sense from the Rolls-Royce Wraith? Some even capitalize it, despite not meaning a specific brand. Whoso has no doubt about the origin shall remove the note, the editor just learned the word and can only suspect.”


  • enPR: rāth, IPA(key): /ɹeɪθ/
  • Rhymes: -eɪθ
  • (file)


wraith (plural wraiths)

  1. A ghost or specter, especially a person's likeness seen just after their death.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:ghost

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Gawin Douglas, transl.,(1513), chapter X, in Eneados, lines 81–82:
    Nor ȝit na vayn wrathys nor gaiſtis quent / Thi char conſtrenyt bakwart forto went
    Nor yet no vain wraiths nor quaint ghosts / constrained Thy chariot to go backward
  2. ^ Gawin Douglas, transl.,(1513), chapter XI, in Eneados, lines 95–96:
    Syklyke as that, thai ſay, in diuers placis / The wraithis walkis of goiſtis that ar ded
    Such as that, they say, in diverse places / The wraiths walk of ghosts that are dead
  3. ^ Gawin Douglas, transl.,(1513), chapter XI, in Eneados, lines 129–130:
    Thydder went this wrath or ſchaddo of Ene, / That ſemyt, all abaſyt, faſt to fle
    Thither went this wraith or shade of Ene, / That seemed, all abased, fast to flee

Further reading[edit]