Definitions

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

  • n. A miserable, unfortunate, or unhappy person.
  • n. A person regarded as base, mean, or despicable: "a stony adversary, an inhuman wretch” ( Shakespeare).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An unhappy, unfortunate, or miserable person.
  • n. An unpleasant, annoying person.
  • n. An exile.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A miserable person; one profoundly unhappy.
  • n. One sunk in vice or degradation; a base, despicable person; a vile knave.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A very miserable person; one who is in a state of desperate unhappiness or misfortune, or is exposed to unavoidable suffering or disgrace.
  • n. A sorry or contemptible creature; a despicable person: a term of opprobrium applied to one who has incurred condemnation by misconduct, and often used on slight occasion and with little intended force.
  • n. Body; creature; thing: used (in some manner that indicates the intention) of a person regarded with some degree of kindly or ironical commiseration, or, when genuine words of endearment seem inadequate, with tender sympathy or passion, or even with admiration.
  • Miserable; wretched.

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

  • n. performs some wicked deed
  • n. someone you feel sorry for

Etymologies

Middle English wrecche, from Old English wrecca, exiles, wretch.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old English wreċċa ("outcast, exile"), from Proto-Germanic *wrakjô. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • ‘None of your business, but yes, that poxy wretch is my father and no, she’s not.

    Writer Unboxed » Blog Archive » Take Five Interview: Juliet Marillier and The Well of Shades

  • Policemen filed in; one or two cases were tried and dismissed, the Malay witnesses trembling from head to foot, and then the wretch from the cage was brought in looking hardly human, as, from under his shaggy, unshaven hair and unplaited pigtail which hung over his chest, he cast furtive, frightened glances at the array before him.

    The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither

  • A wretch is to be hanged here for the crime this morning on his own confession, but it is believed that he was doomed to sacrifice himself by one of these societies, in order to screen the real murderers.

    The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither

  • I continued: -- This poor wretch is deserted, dying, succourless; in these unhappy times, God knows how soon any or all of us may be in like want.

    II.7

  • 'O you vain wretch! to be sure you don't know, that though he is rich, you are richer? and, doubtless, you never took notice, that though he is handsome, you are handsomer?

    Camilla: or, A Picture of Youth

  • 'And shall I entitle the wretch to upbraid me with his generosity, and his pity; and perhaps to reproach me for having been capable of forgiving crimes of such a nature?

    Clarissa Harlowe; or the history of a young lady — Volume 7

  • Oh I'le hear no more, — I'le hear no more — why what a Blasphemous wretch is this!

    Sir Patient Fancy

  • Oh blest deliverance — what a profane wretch is here, and what a lewd world we live in — oh London, London, how thou aboundest in Iniquity, thy Young men are debaucht, thy Virgins defloured, and thy Matrons all turn'd Bawds! my Lady Fancy, this is not company for you I take it, let us fly from this vexation of spirit on the never-failing wings of discretion. —

    Sir Patient Fancy

  • Thereupon Shawahi came forward and kissing the ground before the Queen, took the hem of her garment and laid it on her head, saying, O Queen, by my claim for fosterage, be not hasty with him, more by token of thy knowledge that this poor wretch is a stranger, who hath adventured himself and suffered what none ever suffered before him, and Allah (to whom belong Might and

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • ‘And shall I entitle the wretch to upbraid me with his generosity, and his pity; and perhaps to reproach me for having been capable of forgiving crimes of such a nature?

    Clarissa Harlowe

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  • A troubled young Lise, after slamming a door onto her own finger, wails, “I am a wretch, wretch, wretch, wretch!�?

    -Dostoyevsky, "Brothers Karamazov"

    April 13, 2009