First attested 1513, in the Middle Scots translation of the Aeneid: "Nor ᵹit na vayn wrathys nor gaiftis quent Thi char conftrenyt bakwart forto went," "Syklyke as that, thai fay, in diuers placis The wraithis walkis of goiftis that ar ded," "Thydder went this wrath or fchaddo of Ene, That femyt, all abafyt, faft to fle,".
The word has no certain etymology. J. R. R. Tolkien favored a link with writhe. Also compared are Scottish Gaelic warth and Old Norse vörðr (“watcher, guardian”), whence Icelandic vörður (“guard”). See wray/wreien and bewray; therefore "fama..figuras" becomes "wraithis".
wraith (plural wraiths)
- A ghost or specter, especially seen just after a person's death.
1917, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, edition HTML, The Gutenberg Project, published 2008:
- We might indeed have been the wraiths of the departed dead upon the dead sea of that dying planet for all the sound or sign we made in passing.
2001, Joyce Carol Oates, Middle Age: A Romance, edition paperback, Fourth Estate, page 80:
- Like wraiths with the impediments of bodies they stumbled in the direction of Salthill faces.
- See also Wikisaurus:ghost