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EnglishEdit

EtymologyEdit

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).

PronunciationEdit

NounEdit

wench (plural wenches)

  1. (archaic, now facetious) A girl or young woman, especially a buxom or lively one.
    • 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
      milk.
    • 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 or historical) A black woman (of any age), especially if in a condition of servitude.
    • 1776-1787, records quoted in 2000, Black Loyalists of Nova Scotia: Tracing the History of Tracadie Loyalists, 1776-1787:
      Nancy Basset, 28, likely wench, mulatto / Proved to be free. / Certified free as per General Birch Certificate.
      Patience Jackson, 23, very likely wench, mulatto / Says she was born free Rhode Island. / Certified free as per General Birch Certificate.
    • 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 []
    • 1866 March 2, "Sharp Wench", in the Appeal (quoted, and taken to use this sense, in Hannah Rosen, Terror in the Heart of Freedom, 2009):
      A colored girl [...] was fined ten dollars [...] the Provost allowed a guard to wait on the wench."
    • 2014, Kirsten Pullen, Like a Natural Woman:
      So complete was this illusion, claims Lott, that many audience members, including Mark Twain's mother, believed they were seeing authentic, biologically black performers on New York stages. Of course, wench characters seem to especially test the bounds of authentic performance. [...] Extant photographs and engravings of wench performers do not always represent them as blacked up, [...] In antebellum minstrel shows, wench songs were most often sung about mulatto women rather than by them.

Derived termsEdit

DescendantsEdit

TranslationsEdit

VerbEdit

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.

TranslationsEdit

AdjectiveEdit

wench (comparative wencher, superlative wenchest)

  1. (slang) attractive, good-looking

AnagramsEdit