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Alternative forms[edit]


A double-sided wrench.
A pipe/adjustable wrench.

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English wrench, from Old English wrenċ, from Proto-Germanic *wrankiz (a turning, twisting). Compare German Rank (plot, intrigue).


wrench (plural wrenches)

  1. A movement that twists or pulls violently; a tug. [from 16th c.]
    • 1897, Bram Stoker, chapter 21, in Dracula, New York, N.Y.: Modern Library, →OCLC:
      With a wrench, which threw his victim back upon the bed as though hurled from a height, he turned and sprang at us.
  2. An injury caused by a violent twisting or pulling of a limb; strain, sprain. [from 16th c.]
  3. (obsolete) A trick or artifice. [from 8th c.]
  4. (obsolete) Deceit; guile; treachery. [from 13th c.]
  5. (obsolete) A turn at an acute angle. [from 16th c.]
  6. (archaic) A winch or windlass. [from 16th c.]
  7. (obsolete) A screw. [from 16th c.]
  8. A distorting change from the original meaning. [from 17th c.]
  9. (US) A hand tool for making rotational adjustments, such as fitting nuts and bolts, or fitting pipes; a spanner. [from 18th c.]
    Synonym: (UK, Australia, New Zealand) spanner
  10. (UK) An adjustable spanner used by plumbers.
  11. A violent emotional change caused by separation. [from 19th c.]
  12. (physics) In screw theory, a screw assembled from force and torque vectors arising from application of Newton's laws to a rigid body. [from 19th c.]
  13. (obsolete) means; contrivance
  14. In coursing, the act of bringing the hare round at less than a right angle, worth half a point in the recognised code of points for judging.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English wrenchen, from Old English wrenċan, from Proto-Germanic *wrankijaną. Compare German renken.


wrench (third-person singular simple present wrenches, present participle wrenching, simple past and past participle wrenched)

  1. (transitive) To pull or twist violently. [from 13th c.]
    With a surge of adrenaline, she wrenched the car door off and pulled out the injured man.
  2. (transitive) To injure (a joint) by pulling or twisting. [from 16th c.]
    Be careful not to wrench your ankle walking along those loose stones!
  3. (transitive) To distort the original meaning of; to misrepresent. [from 16th c.]
  4. (transitive) To rack with pain; to be hurt or distressed. [from 18th c.]
  5. (transitive) To deprive by means of a violent pull or twist. [from 18th c.]
  6. (transitive) To use a wrench; to twist with a wrench. [from 19th c.]
    The plumber wrenched the pipes until they came loose.
  7. (intransitive, obsolete) To violently move in a turn or writhe. [11th-18th c.]
  8. (transitive, obsolete) To tighten with or as if with a winch. [16th-19th c.]
  9. (transitive, obsolete) To thrust a weapon in a twisting motion. [16th c.]
  10. (intransitive, fencing, obsolete) To disarm an opponent by whirling his or her blade away. [18th c.]


Further reading[edit]

Middle English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


Inherited from Old English wrenċ, from Proto-West Germanic *wranki, from Proto-Germanic *wrankiz.


  • IPA(key): /wrɛnt͡ʃ/, /wrɛnk/


wrench (plural wrenches or wrenche)

  1. A trick or artifice; a deceptive action.
    • a. 1250, Death’s wither-clench (IMEV 2070, Cotton MS. Caligula A. IX)‎[1], folio 246, recto; republished at London: British Library Digitised Manuscripts, c. 2015:
      Non mai longe liues þene: / Ac ofte hi[m] lieð þe wrench. / Feir þeð[sic] turneð ofte i[n]to reine []
      People can't enjoy long lives, / as a trick often betrays them; / fair [weather] often turns into rain []
  2. Trickery, deception, guile.

Related terms[edit]


  • English: wrench
  • Middle Scots: wrenk, wrink