tr.v. wreaked, wreak·ing, wreaks
1. To bring about (damage or destruction, for example): wreak havoc.
2. To inflict (vengeance or punishment) upon a person.
3. To give vent to or act upon (one's feelings): "He sought for some excuse to wreak his hatred upon Tarzan" (Edgar Rice Burroughs).
4. Archaic To take vengeance for; avenge.
[Middle English wreken, from Old English wrecan.]
Usage Note: Wreak is sometimes confused with wreck, perhaps because the wreaking of damage may leave a wreck: The storm wreaked (not wrecked ) havoc along the coast. The past tense and past participle of wreak is wreaked, not wrought, which is an alternative past tense and past participle of work.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.