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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English wrecche, from Old English wreċċa (exile, outcast), from Proto-Germanic *wrakjô (exile, fugitive, warrior), from Proto-Indo-European *wreg- (to track, follow). Doublet of garçon.



wretch (plural wretches)

  1. An unhappy, unfortunate, or miserable person.
    • 1742, Henry Fielding, chapter 12, in Joseph Andrews[1]:
      The poor wretch, who lay motionless a long time, just began to recover his senses as a stage-coach came by.
    • 1789, Watkin Tench, chapter 14, in The Expedition to Botany Bay[2]:
      The four unhappy wretches labouring under sentence of banishment were freed from their fetters, to rejoin their former society; and three days given as holidays to every convict in the colony.
  2. An unpleasant, annoying, worthless, or despicable person.
    • 1740, Samuel Richardson, chapter 71, in Pamela[3]:
      Swear to me but, thou bold wretch! said she, swear to me, that Pamela Andrews is really and truly thy lawful wife, without sham, without deceit, without double-meaning; and I know what I have to say!
    • 1823, Walter Scott, chapter 32, in Saint Ronan's Well[4]:
      I asked that selfish wretch, Winterblossom, to walk down with me to view her distress, and the heartless beast told me he was afraid of infection!
    • 1885, Richard F. Burton, The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night, Night 532:
      [] Alaeddin ate and drank and was cheered and after he had rested and had recovered spirits he cried, "Ah, O my mother, I have a sore grievance against thee for leaving me to that accursed wight who strave to compass my destruction and designed to take my life. Know that I beheld Death with mine own eyes at the hand of this damned wretch, whom thou didst certify to be my uncle; []
  3. (archaic) An exile. (Can we add an example for this sense?)

Derived terms[edit]


Etymology 2[edit]


wretch (third-person singular simple present wretches, present participle wretching, simple past and past participle wretched)

  1. Misspelling of retch.

Further reading[edit]