Etymology 1Edit

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; []
    • 1887, H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure[5]:
      How I cursed my selfishness and the folly that had kept me lingering by Ayesha's side while my dear boy lay dying! Alas and alas! how easily the best of us are lighted down to evil by the gleam of a woman's eyes! What a wicked wretch was I!
  3. (archaic) An exile. (Can we add an example for this sense?)

Derived termsEdit


Etymology 2Edit


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

  1. Misspelling of retch.

Further readingEdit