AskDefine | Define wretch

The Collaborative Dictionary

Wretch \Wretch\, n. [OE. wrecche, AS. wrecca, wr[ae]cca, an exile, a wretch, fr. wrecan to drive out, punish; properly, an exile, one driven out, akin to AS. wr[ae]c an exile, OS. wrekkio a stranger, OHG. reccheo an exile. See Wreak, v. t.] [1913 Webster]
A miserable person; one profoundly unhappy. "The wretch that lies in woe." --Shak. [1913 Webster] Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son, Wretch even then, life's journey just begun? --Cowper. [1913 Webster]
One sunk in vice or degradation; a base, despicable person; a vile knave; as, a profligate wretch. [1913 Webster] Note: Wretch is sometimes used by way of slight or ironical pity or contempt, and sometimes to express tenderness; as we say, poor thing. "Poor wretch was never frighted so." --Drayton. [1913 Webster]

Word Net



1 performs some wicked deed
2 someone you feel sorry for [syn: poor devil]

Moby Thesaurus

Bowery bum, beachcomber, beggar, beggarly fellow, blackguard, blighter, budmash, bum, bummer, caitiff, cur, derelict, devil, dog, drifter, drunkard, good-for-naught, good-for-nothing, hobo, human wreck, knave, lowlife, martyr, mauvais sujet, mean wretch, mucker, no-good, object of compassion, pauvre diable, pilgarlic, poor creature, poor devil, prey, rapscallion, rascal, rogue, rotter, sad case, sad sack, scalawag, scoundrel, scum, skid-row bum, skunk, snake, stiff, stinkard, stinker, sufferer, sundowner, swagman, toad, tramp, truant, vag, vagabond, vagrant, vaurien, victim, villain, wastrel, worm, worthless fellow



Old English wreċċa


  • [ɹɛtʃ]


  1. an unhappy, unfortunate or miserable person.
  2. (archaic) an exile


an unhappy, unfortunate or miserable person
an exile

Translations to be checked

A Wretch is one who is despicable. Through time, the term has also taken on a much more sympathetic usage, meant to indicate an unfortunate individual deserving of pity rather than righteous scorn.
The term is famously used in the Christian hymn Amazing Grace by stating the God's grace "saved a wretch like me".
It is normally used as an insult. It is also used as:
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