Definition of wreck in US English:



  • 1The destruction of a ship at sea; a shipwreck.

    ‘the survivors of the wreck’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Geranium, a French warship sent from Cherbourg, was alerting other ships to the wreck while a single buoy marked the spot.’
    • ‘Shots of the actual wreck of the ship, early on in the movie, set the atmosphere.’
    • ‘They also knew that castaways could be dangerous; the survivors of a Portuguese wreck 100 years earlier had horrified the Xhosa by turning to cannibalism.’
    • ‘Whisky Galore, a fictional account of an actual wreck of a ship loaded with whisky on Eriskay, was made into a highly successful film.’
    • ‘The nearest one to the road is a memorial to the Walmsley family, who drowned in August 1831, in the wreck of the Rothsay Castle, which took the lives of 100 passengers.’
    • ‘The death of William, his only legitimate son, in 1120 in the wreck of the White Ship brought Henry's whole carefully contrived edifice tumbling down.’
    destruction, sinking, wrecking
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    1. 1.1 A ship destroyed at sea.
      ‘the salvaging of treasure from wrecks’
      • ‘They are giving me the chance to do what no other marine archaeologist has done - investigate a 17th-century warship wreck at great depth.’
      • ‘Buried in the sand near the Australian cities of Sydney and Perth are what are apparently the wrecks of fifteenth-century Chinese ships.’
      • ‘They made their unusual find after echo-sounding equipment on board their ship detected the wreck, and they then explored its hold on a further dive.’
      • ‘The area abounds with wrecks and other reminders of the war, and regularly anchoring in Tokyo Bay is a sobering reminder of why the area is known as Iron Bottom Sound.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Everyone hopes to find the treasure hidden in the wreck, even though many doubt that it's there at all.’
      • ‘There are vestigial remains of a Roman harbour on the western part of the island, and a number of wrecks of Roman vessels have been located in the waters nearby.’
      • ‘Rigby visited the wreck of the Titanic last year on a Russian submarine and will lecture about his trip at the Dundee exhibition.’
      • ‘For 35 years he was a diver, and spent much of his time underwater exploring the wrecks of ships swallowed up by the vast ocean.’
      • ‘The Royal Australian Navy has confirmed that a wreck located 10 nautical miles east of Cape Moreton is not the Centaur.’
      • ‘‘All of the wrecks were fascinating in their own right - and being war graves, were afforded the appropriate respect at all times,’ he added.’
      • ‘The Navy has placed warning signs around the area to warn fisherman and commercial ships of the wreck as to avoid any accidents.’
      • ‘The wrecks are home to a wide variety of corals and marine life including angelfish, barracudas, margates, sharks, snappers and turtles.’
      • ‘And only a couple of weeks ago, divers also thought they had come across the wreck of the Darwin Princess, a 23 metre ferry last seen in Frances Bay.’
      • ‘The wrecks of such ships have inevitably been targets for treasure-seekers.’
      • ‘Snorkelers can have a grand time floating just 30 feet above the stern, watching the divers below and the thousands of fish that live in the wreck.’
      • ‘The wreck of a 100-year-old fishing boat has been discovered in the depths of Loch Ness.’
      • ‘Scuba divers examining wrecks should take particular care.’
      • ‘The area is home to Kowloon Bridge, the world's largest diveable wreck.’
      • ‘With the Western penchant for turning any tragedy into a tourist attraction, today, the Historical Shipwreck Trail takes you past as many as 25 known wrecks.’
      shipwreck, sunken ship, sunken vessel, derelict, hulk
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    2. 1.2Law Goods brought ashore by the sea from a wreck and not claimed by the owner within a specified period (usually a year)
      ‘the profits of wreck’
      • ‘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'.’
    3. 1.3 Something, especially a vehicle or building, that has been badly damaged or destroyed.
      ‘the plane was reduced to a smoldering wreck’
      figurative ‘the wreck of their marriage’
      • ‘Flames visible for miles tore through the roof of a disused school in Windhill, Shipley, last night, leaving the building a wreck.’
      • ‘Mr Galayini buys wrecks from auctions, pulls them apart and sells the bits to smash repairers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘All that was left of the aircraft was a burned-out wreck, with blackened pieces scattered across the sands.’
      • ‘A row of emergency vehicles lined up behind the wreck, and a fire truck sprayed the flames with water.’
      • ‘The station was a wreck when it was bought 18 years ago and the garden non-existent.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, the Outer Hebrides are also littered with the wrecks of abandoned cars - 600 at the last count.’
      • ‘They often have spare parts from other wrecks they have bought.’
      • ‘There was an awkward semicircle of wheeled vehicles arranged around the wreck, all black and white with lights on.’
      • ‘Most of the large buildings had been pounded, wrecks of buses and cars that had been incinerated were lying all over the roads, and smoke filled the air.’
      • ‘Sergeant Barry Woon said a truck driver came across the mangled wrecks and radioed police for help.’
      • ‘It's where locals have dumped the wrecks of maybe a thousand cars, just a few hundred metres from the famous rock.’
      • ‘Since its closure in October, the club building became a burnt-out wreck after being targeted by vandals and being gutted by two separate fires.’
      • ‘The car was reduced to a mangled wreck, and debris and broken glass were scattered across the road.’
      • ‘The airport runway is lined with the rusted wrecks of other planes cannibalized for parts.’
      • ‘It was like walking around at the site of a spaceship wreck - huge pieces of dismantled machinery everywhere.’
      • ‘Christa and John Hale visibly fill with pride as they describe how they have transformed their beloved Highland home from a dilapidated wreck into a rural idyll.’
      • ‘When he returned, his unit's vehicles were burning wrecks and many of its personnel were dead or wounded.’
      • ‘Just as in a marriage relationship, if we seek our own well being, our marriages are wrecks.’
      • ‘When she first set foot in it, it was more of a wreck, but a listed building nonetheless.’
      wreckage, debris, detritus, remainder
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    4. 1.4 The disorganized remains of something that has suffered damage or destruction.
      • ‘This bloody and destructive battle was continued with unabated fury for four hours, and the scene of wreck and devastation which presented itself at its termination was such as has been seldom before witnessed.’
      • ‘As Mio and Mayu explore the village, now a slowly collapsing wreck, Mayu begins to act strangely, as though she's seeing things that Mio isn't.’
      • ‘The ranch still looked a wreck; bits of debris and broken buildings were strewn all over the place.’
      • ‘There was wreck and destruction to the far horizon.’
      • ‘Wreck and ruin stared the passengers in the face at every turn, and the number of trees torn up by the roots, walls thrown down, and houses unroofed, is incalculable.’
    5. 1.5North American A road or rail crash.
      ‘a train wreck’
      • ‘The driver overshot the last station before the wreck, and a crew member and several passengers speculated the train was speeding to make up time.’
      • ‘At least a dozen times over the past two years I've heard the sickening thud and tortured tire screech that signals a fresh wreck in the intersection.’
      • ‘If the engine of a train suddenly goes off the rails, a wreck ensues.’
      • ‘That same night an entire catch crew was wiped out by a truck wreck.’
      • ‘Gordon led laps for the first time since Daytona and was a threat to win until his car was damaged in a wreck.’
      • ‘The song was available on phonograph records within less than a year of the wreck and remains one of the better of the railroad disaster genre.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If saving human lives is the great desideratum, then there is more to be gained by prevention of drowning and auto wrecks than by the abolition of war.’
      • ‘Michigan's no-fault insurance law provides unlimited lifetime coverage for medical expenses tied to auto wrecks.’
      • ‘A fatal car wreck late Sunday night forced investigators to close a southwest Valley intersection through Monday morning, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.’
      • ‘Cars and bicyclists often are not looking for each other, which can lead to wrecks at intersections.’
      • ‘He swerved to the left of the vehicle barely avoiding a wreck.’
      • ‘The father of his younger brothers treated Erik and his older sister as his own, but he died last summer in a car wreck.’
      crash, accident, smash, bump, knock, impact, hit, strike, clash
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    6. 1.6 A person whose physical or mental health or strength has failed.
      ‘the scandal left the family emotional wrecks’
      • ‘My dad was an emotional wreck and my mom completely withdrew from everything around her.’
      • ‘I knew I was going to be an emotional wreck, judging from how quickly my moods were changing.’
      • ‘In the past few years, flying has become such an ordeal that take-off and landing now reduce me to a quivering, sweaty-palmed wreck.’
      • ‘This thought was enough to turn Kat into a nervous, nail-biting wreck.’
      • ‘Are pupils and parents really so terrible they can reduce grown-up professionals to quivering wrecks?’
      • ‘I knew she was an emotional wreck, but I was a little surprised when she broke down into tears right in front of me.’
      • ‘The burly Scotsman, who earlier this year was an emotional wreck after the public breakup of his marriage, had tears in his eyes.’
      • ‘It was a pitiful sight to see such a fine ambassador for British sport sitting on the kerb, head in hands, shaking her head, a physical and emotional wreck.’
      • ‘Oh, but until that second acceptance arrived, I remained a nervous wreck.’
      • ‘I am a physical wreck, I do not sleep properly and I do not eat properly.’
      • ‘He was a physical wreck and is looking forward to spending time at home.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Having moved house seven times since 1980 we should be gibbering wrecks but we are pleased to say we are as excited as two children on Christmas morning.’
      • ‘The phone call will come, and even though I have been expecting it, I'll still be an emotional wreck.’
      • ‘I left the Academy in 1987 a physical and emotional wreck, with a chronic drinking problem… 18 years old.’
      • ‘The walk had left me a physical wreck and when I pulled up outside the house and my mum was there with open arms, I almost burst into tears.’
      • ‘She couldn't offer any emotional stability, because she was an emotional wreck as it was.’
      • ‘He subsequently fronts the media to announce that he's become a guilt ridden wreck as a result of his uncharacteristic moment of madness.’
      • ‘‘The last two years made me an emotional wreck,’ said Holmes.’
      • ‘He always insists he's fine, but he's a wreck and he's destroying himself without even realizing what's happening.’


[with object]usually be wrecked
  • 1Cause the destruction of (a ship) by sinking or breaking up.

    ‘he was drowned when his ship was wrecked’
    • ‘Ships were wrecked off Bishop Rock until 1847, when Trinity House decided to erect a lighthouse.’
    • ‘But the arrival of his force, presumably in eastern Kent, had been anticipated, resistance was strong, and a storm damaged or wrecked many of his ships four days later.’
    • ‘The ships were two of the 20-24 Spanish Armada ships that were wrecked off the Irish coastline out of a total fleet of 130 ships.’
    • ‘Several lighter vessels and pearling luggers were sunk or wrecked.’
    • ‘The driveway is lined on one side with heavy chains from the ship Warrior that was wrecked at the mouth of the Timaru Stream in 1905.’
    • ‘Not to be missed on a trip to this area is the infamous Runnel Stone, reputed to have wrecked more than 27 ships.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Two other ships have been wrecked over this way, though they are more thoroughly broken up and the debris fields are mixed together.’
    • ‘Ships over taken by the gale were wrecked and sunk and the loss of life was estimated at 8,000 men.’
    • ‘The approach to Jeddah is filled with dangerous reefs, and over the years several ships have been wrecked.’
    • ‘Mr Manners said it took 18 months on and off to recreate the mini-Batavia, a Dutch ship that was wrecked off the Abrolhos Islands in 1629.’
    • ‘Returning from the unsuccessful Toulon mission in 1707, his flagship was wrecked off the Scilly Isles.’
    • ‘The original film was based on a novel by Compton Mackenzie, which in turn was based on a real incident in which a ship was wrecked off Eriskay.’
    • ‘Whaling and sealing were a dangerous occupation and many ships were wrecked along the southern coast of South Australia.’
    • ‘The name comes from a hurricane that struck the area in 1715, wrecking a fleet of Spanish treasure ships en route from Havana to Spain.’
    • ‘Two of the ships were wrecked off Cyprus, but the ship bearing the Queen and Berengaria made it safely to Limassol.’
    • ‘When his vessel was wrecked and Tichborne apparently lost at sea, Lady Tichborne refused to believe her son was dead and advertised for his return.’
    • ‘He has said the three of them were rescued by North Korean fishermen when their fishing boat was wrecked in a storm in the Sea of Japan in May 1963.’
    • ‘Gulliver is tossed into the water and the ship is wrecked.’
    shipwreck, sink, capsize, run aground, break up
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    1. 1.1 Involve (someone) in a wreck.
      ‘sailors who had the misfortune to be wrecked on these coasts’
      • ‘So, there were an Irishman, an Englishman and an American wrecked on an island.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her great grandfather lived quite an adventurous life and was ship wrecked off the coast of Iceland.’
      • ‘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.’
      land, reach the shore, run ashore
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    2. 1.2usually as noun wreckinghistorical no object Cause the destruction of a ship in order to steal the cargo.
      ‘the locals reverted to the age-old practice of wrecking’
      • ‘Breton seaweed workers - like those burning kelp in the Scottish islands - were very poor, supplementing their meagre incomes with fishing, farming and sometimes wrecking.’
      • ‘This meant that the sailors from these ports could do what they wanted, including wrecking, grounding and plundering other ships.’
      • ‘The disorientation is fitting because, startling as it now seems, wrecking was practiced not by rogues or villains but by unremarkable locals.’
      • ‘The crew took the Pacific Emerald for wrecking but the second part of the settlement was never honoured.’
      • ‘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.’
    3. 1.3archaic no object Suffer or undergo shipwreck.
    4. 1.4 Destroy or severely damage (a structure or vehicle)
      ‘the blast wrecked more than 100 houses’
      • ‘Arsonists wrecked a dozen cars at a scrapyard in Bolton last night.’
      • ‘Four lorries were also wrecked in the blaze which was fought by 35 firemen at Barlows Mill off Stand Lane.’
      • ‘A disabled Darwen pensioner has spoken of his terror at the crash which wrecked his new car.’
      • ‘Gangs of yobs have caused more than £40,000 of damage after wrecking 34 lampposts in York suburbs in a fortnight.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He flew into a severe storm, his balloon was wrecked, and he plummeted seaward from the sky.’
      • ‘A well-known restaurant has been wrecked in a blaze.’
      • ‘The car was wrecked, but 52-year-old Moira, who was cut free by firefighters, suffered only minor injuries and shock.’
      • ‘He drove into a huge pothole and wrecked the truck.’
      • ‘Shops and homes were damaged and some 50 cars and vans were wrecked as they were swept through the streets - some of them ending up floating out to sea.’
      • ‘About 2 hours ago, I crashed and totally wrecked my car.’
      • ‘The fact that some structures were wrecked while others remained untouched could point to inferior building methods.’
      • ‘A Bradford rioter claimed he tried to stop youths wrecking cars only minutes after being filmed throwing stones himself.’
      • ‘Photographs of the apparent aftermath - showing wrecked vehicles and dented police helmets - have since appeared on several Weblogs.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A pensioner has slammed vandals who wrecked his car, cutting off his disabled wife's lifeline to the outside world.’
      • ‘Thus it came as a surprise when, after my brother had gotten in about as much trouble as either of us had ever gotten into - drinking and wrecking his car - my father did not respond with anger.’
      • ‘He could have lost control of his bike, wrecking it and causing injury or even death.’
      • ‘Arsonists torched tyres to start a blaze which wrecked railway carriages, investigators believe.’
      • ‘One local said he had seen up to 15 cars wrecked by one of the blasts, with a number of people still inside the club.’
      demolish, crash, smash, smash up, ruin, damage, damage beyond repair, destroy, break up, dismantle, vandalize, deface, desecrate, sabotage, leave in ruins
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    5. 1.5 Spoil completely.
      ‘an eye injury wrecked his chances of a professional career’
      • ‘Balshaw's hopes of resuming his England career in the Six Nations have almost certainly been wrecked by his latest injury blow.’
      • ‘But the Bulldogs' potential dream season was wrecked by more injuries than one team can be expected to handle.’
      • ‘A hamstring injury wrecked his bid for a medal at this season's world championships in Canada, but he's now looking forward to going for gold in Manchester.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Gordon is just happy to be taking part in the Games as a serious knee injury in 2002 threatened to wreck his career.’
      • ‘Currie seems to still hold a candle for Major, despite publicly wrecking his life.’
      • ‘And many potential employees wreck their chances of being taken on by telling wild lies on their CVs, dressing bizarrely or even having nose-rings.’
      • ‘I'm not going to stand here and let you wreck her life.’
      • ‘‘You can cut down on expenditure without wrecking your social life or spoiling your studies,’ it says.’
      • ‘Two days before he was due to return home he suffered a leg injury which effectively wrecked his high hopes for the season.’
      • ‘Wannstedt wrecked his chances of succeeding with the Bears by micromanaging and by being too uptight and too insecure.’
      • ‘Mrs Gault said the gang must be caught before they wreck more lives.’
      • ‘In the end they ruled out only such serious illnesses as active or malignant disease which the doctor thought would totally wreck the child's chance of a healthy life.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Even though Enid manages to engineer and then wreck his chances with another woman, it is very unlikely that that relationship would have developed.’
      • ‘Jackson was quick out of his blocks and, unlike the Commonwealth Games final where he clattered the first barrier and wrecked his gold chances, he was cleanly into the race.’
      • ‘It was a welcome return to the big stage for Parkinson after injury wrecked his campaign last year.’
      • ‘Westwood blamed him for wrecking his chance of setting a course record.’
      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
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    6. 1.6usually as noun wreckingNorth American no object Engage in breaking up badly damaged vehicles, demolishing old buildings, or similar activities to obtain usable spares or scrap.
      • ‘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.