1. to severely damage or destroy a vehicle or building
a. to damage something such as a plan or a relationship so badly that it no longer exists
2. to destroy a ship so that it sinks
Origin and usage
The word wreck is derived from the Old Norse words ‘wrek’, meaning ‘flotsam’, and ‘reka’, meaning ‘to push’. It was first used as a verb in English sometime during the early 13th century, but its use as a noun describing a ship that has been ruined wasn’t until the mid-15th century. The first recorded use of the word wreck in reference to any object that has been destroyed or ruined occurred around 1713.
Wreck can be used as either a verb referring to the act of damaging something beyond repair (‘He didn’t mean to wreck the cake, it simply slipped out of his hands and smashed on the floor’) or as a noun that describes an object that has been broken (‘The sunken wreck of the old sailing ship was a popular scuba diving spot for tourists’).
Other examples of common uses of the word wreck include:
• Car wreck (refers to a vehicle accident)
• Emotional wreck (a person who is overcome with happiness or sadness)
• Train wreck (can refer to either an actual accident involving a train or to describe a person who is behaving erratically)
• Nervous wreck (a person who is extremely nervous or anxious)
• Total wreck (usually refers to a room or place that is very messy or untidy)
“There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl’s complexion.”
“My 20s was a sea of worry. I worried about benefit forms, about being thrown out of my flat. I never went on holiday because I thought: ‘What if an audition comes up?’ I was a nervous wreck.”
tear down, accident
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.