Definition of wretch in US English:



  • 1An unfortunate or unhappy person.

    ‘can the poor wretch's corpse tell us anything?’
    • ‘He watched the poor wretch the commanding officer was lecturing, and looked on him with little pity.’
    • ‘I plan to see The Prisoner of Azkaban on Thursday, and even though that's a school day (in this state, anyway), I just know the cinema will be packed with mewling wretches anyway.’
    • ‘His picture of writers as frustrated, unpraised, unrewarded wretches, pitied at parties and whispered about among families, drew laughter and wry nods.’
    • ‘It was, evidently, some poor penniless wretch trying to keep from freezing to death on the coldest day of the year.’
    • ‘I asked Miss D' Lish to send us a little info to help out those unfortunate wretches who might not be familiar with her life and work.’
    • ‘The poor wretch had no idea what he was getting into.’
    • ‘Will your readers kindly give just one moment's thought in comparing with their own, who are well fed, clothed, housed and cared for, the poor wretches I have described?’
    • ‘Poor wretch, the officers tell me that he was caught robbing a loaf of bread from the basket of a wealthy Lady who had bought it.’
    • ‘But then, we realize that if we do not help this poor wretch, it is going to turn out that, when we need help, no one will come to our aide.’
    • ‘After all, we get only occasional glimpses of helpless wretches living in slums, or in places far removed from our wonderful clean, green environment.’
    • ‘The poor wretch working the steady cam must have been exhausted.’
    • ‘How I pity the unhappy wretches who are doomed to dwell in such a place!’
    • ‘If the writers win, the publishers fear they'll be vulnerable to lawsuits by ink-stained wretches and so will be forced to excise freelance articles from their databases.’
    • ‘The economy is heavily dependent on massive production of cotton, the revenue from which brings almost no economic benefit to the wretches who pick it in conditions of serfdom.’
    • ‘For those poor wretches, many of whom are innocent of the charges they face, but who cannot afford big-name attorneys, they stew in prison and suffer in court.’
    • ‘But the tearful lover, turned away from her door, often smothers the threshold with flowers and garlands, and anoints the proud doorposts with marjoram, and plants kisses, poor wretch, on the door.’
    • ‘It may be just a smear to you, mate, but it's life and death to some poor wretch.’
    • ‘The latter, poor wretches, are willing and ready to work in sweatshop conditions for $1 an hour, if that.’
    • ‘You will agree, sir, that these wretches behaved like men whose nephews and grand-nephews were condemned in perpetuity to remain as poor as their ancestors.’
    • ‘I hope someone turns the wretches in to the police.’
    poor creature, poor soul, poor thing, miserable creature, sad case, unfortunate, poor unfortunate
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    1. 1.1informal A despicable or contemptible person.
      ‘ungrateful wretches’
      • ‘Do you realize what this means for me, you ungrateful wretch?’
      • ‘He is a grasping, cantankerous wretch, but he is no fool.’
      • ‘Instead, we get reasoned debates on how to force the world to love us or assurances that the ungrateful wretches should love us for their own good.’
      • ‘My hits did go up to about 200 since yesterday so why am I being an ungrateful wretch?’
      • ‘Snatching a hold of his shirt, black material captured in her relentless grip, she clung to him, her knuckles white in desperation as she declared, ‘I'm in love with you, you ungrateful wretch!’’
      • ‘Know that I have nothing but contempt for your concern, you pompous wretch.’
      • ‘‘Come on, you ungrateful wretch,’ she said, gritting her teeth and trying to continue to feel sympathetic for him.’
      • ‘And I imagine that you hold yourself above those despicable wretches?’
      • ‘These ungrateful wretches are apparently arguing that very few of them actually live beyond that age!’
      • ‘I felt a pang of jealousy suddenly; it caught me off guard and made me feel like an ungrateful wretch.’
      • ‘I forgive you, you ungrateful wretch, for you are my brother's son.’
      • ‘Even better, he's had a reply from one of the traitorous wretches planning to vote against the Bill later today.’
      • ‘And what's wrong with the CD player we just bought you, you ungrateful wretch, it's a perfectly good make and it's probably made in the same factory as Sony anyway!’
      • ‘Except that this time we know he's not an ungrateful wretch; he's just a little happier than when we met him, and so are we.’
      • ‘‘My, aren't you the ungrateful wretch,’ he snapped.’
      scoundrel, villain, ruffian, rogue, rascal, reprobate, criminal, delinquent, good-for-nothing, cad
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Old English wrecca (also in the sense ‘banished person’), of West Germanic origin; related to German Recke ‘warrior, hero’, also to the verb wreak.