Last modified on 12 February 2015, at 06:51




First attested 1513, in the Middle Scots translation of the Aeneid: "Nor ᵹit na vayn wrathys nor gaiſtis quent Thi char conſtrenyt bakwart forto went," "Syklyke as that, thai ſay, in diuers placis The wraithis walkis of goiſtis that ar ded," "Thydder went this wrath or ſchaddo of Ene, That ſemyt, all abaſyt, faſt to fle,".

The word has no certain etymology. J. R. R. Tolkien favored a link with writhe. Also compared are Scots warth and Old Norse vörðr (watcher, guardian), whence Icelandic vörður (guard). See also wray/bewray, from Middle English wreien[1].



wraith (plural wraiths)

  1. A ghost or specter, especially seen just after a person's death.
    • 1513, Gawin Douglas, “XI”, in The Æneid of Virgil: Translated into Scottish Verse[2], The Tenth Buke, edition The Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh: T Constable, translation of Virgilii Eneados by Publi Vergili Maronis, published 1839, line 95, page 646:
      The wraithis walkis of goistis that ar ded,
    • 1917, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars[3], 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.


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