Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English wrecched, equivalent to wretch +‎ -ed.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹɛtʃɪd/
  • (file)


wretched (comparative wretcheder or more wretched, superlative wretchedest or most wretched)

  1. Very miserable; feeling deep affliction or distress.
    I felt wretched after my wife died.
    • 1918, Maksim Gorky, chapter 4, in Creatures That Once Were Men, and other stories[1]:
      As for me, I felt wretched and helpless, in the darkness, surrounded with angry waves, whose noise deafened me.
  2. Worthless; paltry; very poor or mean; miserable.
    The street was full of wretched beggars dressed in rags.
    • 1864, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, chapter 1, in Notes from Underground[2]:
      My room is a wretched, horrid one in the outskirts of the town.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XVII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 4293071:
      This time was most dreadful for Lilian. Thrown on her own resources and almost penniless, she maintained herself and paid the rent of a wretched room near the hospital by working as a charwoman, sempstress, anything.
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, “[Episode 16]”, in Ulysses, London: The Egoist Press, published October 1922, OCLC 2297483:
      All those wretched quarrels, in his humble opinion, stirring up bad blood, from some bump of combativeness or gland of some kind, erroneously supposed to be about a punctilio of honour and a flag, [].
    • 2011 April 11, Phil McNulty, “Liverpool 3-0 Man City”, in BBC Sport:
      Mario Balotelli replaced Tevez but his contribution was so negligible that he suffered the indignity of being substituted himself as time ran out, a development that encapsulated a wretched 90 minutes for City and boss Roberto Mancini.
  3. (obsolete) Hatefully contemptible; despicable; wicked.
  4. (informal) Used to express dislike of or annoyance towards the mentioned thing.
    Will you please stop playing that wretched trombone!
Usage notesEdit
  • Nouns to which "wretched" is often applied: woman, state, life, condition, creature, man, excess, person, place, world, being, situation, weather, slave, animal, city, village, health, house, town, hole, hive.
Derived termsEdit
Related termsEdit
Further readingEdit

Etymology 2Edit




  1. Misspelling of retched.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for “wretched” in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)