Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Wreak

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is wreak. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Wreak means “to bring about or cause (something that is harmful or damaging).” It is often used in the phrase “wreak havoc.”

// The trip involved crossing several time zones, which wreaked havoc on my sleep routine for a few days.

WREAK in Context

“[Rats] rustle around in trash cans and take up residence in sewers, which feeds the false impression that they are fundamentally dirty creatures. Worse still, they invade homes and other indoor spaces. Squirrels do this too—given the opportunity, they’ll wreak havoc in your attic—but not as frequently.” — Jacob Stern, The Atlantic, 8 July 2022

Did You Know?

In its early days, wreak was synonymous with avenge, a meaning exemplified when Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus proclaims “We will solicit heaven, and move the gods / To send down Justice for to wreak our wrongs.” This sense is now archaic, but the association hasn’t been lost: although wreak is today most often paired with havoc, it is also still sometimes paired with vengeance. We humbly suggest you avoid wreaking either, no matter how badly you may crave your just deserts.

Leave a Reply