Definition of wreck in English:

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Pronunciation: /rɛk/


1The destruction of a ship at sea; a shipwreck: the survivors of the wreck
More example sentences
  • Whisky Galore, a fictional account of an actual wreck of a ship loaded with whisky on Eriskay, was made into a highly successful film.
  • Geranium, a French warship sent from Cherbourg, was alerting other ships to the wreck while a single buoy marked the spot.
  • Te Namu Bay was the scene of the 1862 wreck of the ship the Lord Worsley, and was one of the most beautiful spots in the district.
destruction, sinking, wrecking;
devastation, ruination, ruin, demolition, smashing, shattering, disintegration
1.1A ship destroyed at sea: the salvaging of treasure from wrecks
More example sentences
  • Plans to move the wreck of destroyer HMS Wakeful out of a shipping lane have been amended to allow the ship to safely remain where she sank during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.
  • The wrecks of such ships have inevitably been targets for treasure-seekers.
  • Everyone hopes to find the treasure hidden in the wreck, even though many doubt that it's there at all.
shipwreck, sunken ship, sunken vessel, derelict, hulk;
shell, skeleton, hull, frame
1.2 [mass noun] Law Goods brought ashore by the sea from a wreck: the profits of wreck
More example sentences
  • The sale of the manor in 1681 included profits of wreck, stone, and timber from the shore, and new land 'accruing by violence of the sea'.
2Something, especially a vehicle or building, that has been badly damaged or destroyed: the plane was reduced to a smouldering wreck figurative the wreck of their marriage
More example sentences
  • The driver of the pickup, who walked away from the wreck of his vehicle, was also taken to hospital, where he received 12 stitches to his forehead.
  • The station was a wreck when it was bought 18 years ago and the garden non-existent.
  • It was like walking around at the site of a spaceship wreck - huge pieces of dismantled machinery everywhere.
wreckage, debris, detritus, remainder;
ruins, remains, remnants, fragments, pieces, relics
2.1North American A road or rail crash: a train wreck
More example sentences
  • If the engine of a train suddenly goes off the rails, a wreck ensues.
  • Several minor wrecks, mostly in rail yards, have helped feed community fears.
  • With those numbers, it's just a matter of time before the next fatal wreck occurs, Rendon said.
3A person whose physical or mental health or strength has failed: the scandal left the family emotional wrecks
More example sentences
  • The whole point of this storyline is that he has reduced her to a gibbering wreck through emotional and verbal cruelty without any physical violence.
  • I am a physical wreck, I do not sleep properly and I do not eat properly.
  • Are pupils and parents really so terrible they can reduce grown-up professionals to quivering wrecks?


[with object]
1Cause the destruction of (a ship) by sinking or breaking up: he was drowned when his ship was wrecked
More example sentences
  • Iziko Museums in Cape Town have started off a project to find different slave ships that were wrecked along the South African coastline.
  • His ship is wrecked and the passengers take to the long-boat.
  • The approach to Jeddah is filled with dangerous reefs, and over the years several ships have been wrecked.
shipwreck, sink, capsize, run aground, break up
1.1Involve (someone) in a shipwreck: sailors who had the misfortune to be wrecked on these coasts
More example sentences
  • His luck then goes from bad to worse as he is brought before the Spanish Inquisition, swindled out of a Mexican fortune, wrecked on a desert island and separated from his true love, Cunegonde.
  • Individual scenes are well staged: when wrecked on the shores of Pentapolis, Pericles arrives in a launderette swimming in water and bedecked with old clothes.
  • Her great grandfather lived quite an adventurous life and was ship wrecked off the coast of Iceland.
1.2 [no object] (usually as noun wrecking) chiefly historical Cause the destruction of a ship in order to steal the cargo: the locals reverted to the age-old practice of wrecking
More example sentences
  • The seashore inhabitants gained some recompense by resorting to wrecking, a tradition which lasted well into the 19th cent., and by their own privateering and smuggling.
  • The crew took the Pacific Emerald for wrecking but the second part of the settlement was never honoured.
  • The disorientation is fitting because, startling as it now seems, wrecking was practiced not by rogues or villains but by unremarkable locals.
1.3 [no object] archaic Suffer or undergo shipwreck: my letters were in one of the vessels that wreck’d
2Destroy or severely damage (a structure, vehicle, or similar): the blast wrecked 100 houses
More example sentences
  • Two serious accidents, destroying four vehicles and wrecking a house wall and a traffic light at the junction, have already occurred since the lights failed last Thursday morning.
  • Photographs of the apparent aftermath - showing wrecked vehicles and dented police helmets - have since appeared on several Weblogs.
  • That Nolan was there to play his part was a near-miracle in itself after the youngster's lucky escape from that morning's dramatic smash that wrecked his car.
demolish, crash, smash, smash up, ruin, damage, damage beyond repair, destroy, break up, dismantle, vandalize, deface, desecrate, sabotage, leave in ruins
informal write off
British informal prang
North American informal trash, total
2.1Spoil completely: an eye injury wrecked his chances of a professional career
More example sentences
  • Holmes has spent most of her career cursing her luck after a string of injuries wrecked her chances of gold at major championships.
  • Yet Larkham says that the rapid recovery of debutant lock Justin Harrison, whose career was almost wrecked by a similar injury last year, has been an inspiration to him in his darker moments.
  • Keith Wood will be with the 41-man Irish squad on the tour but has no intention of playing in any of the three games after a season wrecked by injury.
ruin, spoil, disrupt, undo, mar, play havoc with, make a mess of, put an end to, end, bring to an end, put a stop to, prevent, frustrate, blight, crush, quell, quash, dash, destroy, scotch, shatter, devastate, demolish, sabotage
informal mess up, screw up, louse up, foul up, make a hash of, do in, put paid to, put the lid on, put the kibosh on, stymie, queer, nix, banjax, blow a hole in
British informal scupper, dish, throw a spanner in the works of
North American informal throw a monkey wrench in the works of
Australian informal euchre, cruel
archaic bring to naught
3 [no object] (usually as noun wrecking) chiefly North American Engage in breaking up badly damaged vehicles or demolishing old buildings to obtain usable spares or scrap.
Example sentences
  • The license allows a business to buy and resell vehicles for wrecking, processing, scrapping, recycling or dismantling.
  • The contractor should plan for the wrecking of the structure, the equipment to do the work, manpower requirements, and the protection of the public.


Middle English (as a legal term denoting wreckage washed ashore): from Anglo-Norman French wrec, from the base of Old Norse reka 'to drive'; related to wreak.

  • When it first appeared wreck meant ‘cargo or wreckage washed ashore from a wrecked or stranded vessel’. The word came into English from Old French wrec. The source was an Old Norse word meaning ‘to drive’ that was related to wreak, ‘to cause a lot of damage or harm’, and to rack. A person in a state of stress or emotional exhaustion has been a wreck since the 1790s and a nervous wreck since about 1870. Wretch (Old English) and wretched (Middle English) are related to wreak.

Words that rhyme with wreck

beck, bedeck, check, cheque, Chiang Kai-shek, crosscheck, Czech, deck, dreck, exec, fleck, heck, hitech, keck, lek, neck, peck, Québec, rec, reck, sec, sneck, spec, speck, spot-check, tec, tech, Toulouse-Lautrec, trek

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: wreck

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