from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Any of various hand or power tools, often having fixed or adjustable jaws, used for gripping, turning, or twisting objects such as nuts, bolts, or pipes, typically at an angle perpendicular to the object's axis.
  • noun A sudden, forcible twist, turn, or pull.
  • noun An injury produced by twisting or straining.
  • noun A sudden feeling of compassion, sorrow, or anguish, or an act that causes such feeling.
  • noun A distortion in the original form or meaning of something written or spoken; a twisted interpretation.
  • intransitive verb To twist, turn, or pull suddenly and forcibly.
  • intransitive verb To twist and sprain.
  • intransitive verb To turn using a wrench.
  • intransitive verb To move, extract, or force free by twisting, turning, or pulling forcibly.
  • intransitive verb To free (oneself or a body part) by twisting, turning, or pulling.
  • intransitive verb To upset the feelings or emotions of; distress.
  • intransitive verb To interpret unreasonably or inaccurately; distort.
  • intransitive verb To give a twist, turn, or pull.
  • intransitive verb To cause distress.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A hose-coupling wrench or spanner. The hose-coupling union may have pins or tits on its exterior face, fitting a hole in the end of the curved bar or spanner; or the unions may have radial holes into which a tit on the end of the spanner may enter.
  • noun A crooked or tortuous action; a fraudulent device; a trick; a deceit; a stratagem.
  • noun A violent twist or turn given to something; a pulling awry: a sudden twisting out of shape, place, or relation: used of both material and immaterial things: as, to sprain one's foot by a wrench; the change was a great wrench to his feelings.
  • noun A sharp turn; specifically, in coursing, the turning of a hare at less than a right angle.
  • noun In mathematical physics, a force, or variation of force, tending to give a body a twist about an imaginary or real screw.
  • noun A tool consisting essentially of a bar of metal having jaws at one end adapted to catch upon the head of a bolt or a nut, or to hold a metal pipe or rod, so as to turn it.
  • noun Means of compulsion.
  • To twist or turn about with effort or violence; give a sudden twist to; hence, to distort; pervert; turn awry.
  • To injure or pain by a twisting action; produce a distorting effect in or upon; distort; sprain: as, to wrench one's ankle.
  • To pull or draw with torsion; extract by twisting or tortuous action; hence, to wrest forcibly or violently.
  • To have or undergo a wrenching motion; turn twistingly.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To pull with a twist; to wrest, twist, or force by violence.
  • transitive verb To strain; to sprain; hence, to distort; to pervert.
  • noun obsolete Trick; deceit; fraud; stratagem.
  • noun A violent twist, or a pull with twisting.
  • noun A sprain; an injury by twisting, as in a joint.
  • noun obsolete Means; contrivance.
  • noun An instrument, often a simple bar or lever with jaws or an angular orifice either at the end or between the ends, for exerting a twisting strain, as in turning bolts, nuts, screw taps, etc.; a screw key. Many wrenches have adjustable jaws for grasping nuts, etc., of different sizes.
  • noun (Mech.) The system made up of a force and a couple of forces in a plane perpendicular to that force. Any number of forces acting at any points upon a rigid body may be compounded so as to be equivalent to a wrench.
  • noun a wrench adapted for removing or tightening the nuts that confine the wheels on the axles, or for turning the other nuts or bolts of a carriage or wagon.
  • noun See under Monkey.
  • noun a wrench with the end shaped so as to admit of being used as a hammer.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a hand tool that is used to hold or twist a nut or bolt
  • verb make a sudden twisting motion
  • noun a jerky pulling movement
  • noun a sharp strain on muscles or ligaments
  • verb twist and compress, as if in pain or anguish
  • verb twist suddenly so as to sprain
  • verb twist or pull violently or suddenly, especially so as to remove (something) from that to which it is attached or from where it originates


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Middle English wrenchen, to twist, from Old English wrencan; see wer- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English wrenċan, from Proto-Germanic *wrankijanan. Compare German renken.


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  • "Back into the life he wants and the confession of the bench

    Life outside the diamond is a wrench"

    - Belle & Sebastian, "Piazza, New York Catcher"

    August 31, 2007