Word Confusion: Wench vs Winch vs Wrench

Posted August 17, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

No. This simply does not work for me “helping to work the wenches”. At least not in the context of this steampunk story. I suppose, considering the primary definition for wench, that one could well “work the wenches”, so keep that in mind. However, if you’re hauling something up…hmmm, I suppose you could haul up a wench too??? But in the general scheme of things, winches haul, wenches may haul ass to get away, and wrenches tend to haul on a stubborn bolt.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Wench Winch Wrench
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Woman in a black-and-white costume pulling up her skirt

Image by Darren Stone [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Mooring line deployment winch on balder.

Image courtesy of Heerema via Wikimedia Commons.

That has got to be some huge ship!

Socket wrench with extension

Image by M.M. Minderhoud (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I do love those socket wrenches!

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive

Noun plural & third person present verb: wenches
Past tense or past participle: wenched
Gerund or present participle: wenching

Noun 1; Verb, transitive 2

Noun plural & third person present verb: winches
Past tense or past participle: winched
Gerund or present participle: winching

Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Noun plural & third person present verb: wrenches
Past tense or past participle: wrenched
Gerund or present participle: wrenching

[Archaic, humorous] A girl or young woman, especially a peasant

  • [Archaic] Prostitute

Verb, intransitive:
[Archaic; of a man] Consort with prostitutes or lewd women

  • To practice fornication
A hauling or lifting device consisting of a rope, cable, or chain winding around a horizontal rotating drum, turned by a crank or by motor or other power source


The crank of a wheel or axle

Verb, transitive:
Hoist or haul with a winch

[Usually singular] A sudden violent twist or pull

A feeling of sadness or distress caused by one’s own or another’s departure

A tool used for gripping and turning nuts, bolts, pipes, etc.

[Mechanics] A combination of a couple with a force along its axis

Verb, intransitive:
[Figurative] Pull, strain, or twist someone or something suddenly and violently

Verb, transitive:
Pull or twist someone or something suddenly and violently

  • Injure a part of the body as a result of a sudden twisting movement
  • Turn something, especially a nut or bolt, with a wrench
  • [Archaic] Distort to fit a particular theory or interpretation
We talked Maggie into a sexy French maid costume; it’ll help her get in touch with her inner wench, lol.

The story of Cinderella is a fairytale that could be about a lowly kitchen wench being transformed into an elegant lady.

It feels so demeaning when my boyfriend calls me wench!

He was enamored of the wench.

Verb, intransitive:
A wenching we will go, a wenching we will go…hi-ho-the-merry-oh…

He goes a’wenching every night.

Get that winch working if we’re to haul that anchor up.

The winch is jammed.

Wrap that cable around the winch.

Verb, transitive:
Ye’ll have to winch that up carefully, lads.

The crew winched up the anchor.

Gregor was glad enough to winch the bales up into the hayloft as the day came to an end.

With a wrench, Tony wriggled free.

It will be a real wrench to leave after eight years.

It was a practical buy, getting that SAE and metric wrench set.

He’ll need a wrench to loosen up that pipe.

That sure put a monkey wrench in the works.

Verb, intransitive:
The betrayal wrenched at her heart.

I tried to wrench free from his grip.

Verb, transitive:
Casey grabbed the gun and wrenched it upward from my hand.

She wrenched herself free of his grip.

She slipped and wrenched her ankle.

She wrenched the toy from his grasp.

It took some doing, but he wrenched it free.

It is a lie to wrench our Bible to make it fit a misconception of facts.

Noun: wencher Noun: wincher Adverb: wrenchingly
History of the Word:
Middle English as an abbreviation of the obsolete wenchel meaning child, servant, or prostitute. It is perhaps related to the Old English wancol meaning unsteady or inconstant. 1 First known use was before the 12th century, late Old English from wince meaning reel, roller, or pulley and is of Germanic origin and related to the verb wink.

2 First known use: 1529

Late Old English wrencan meaning twist is of unknown origin.

Return to top

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?