Word Confusion: Retch versus Wretch

Posted March 20, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Too many wretches have confused retch and wretch that a Word Confusion for this pair of wretched heterographs was a necessity.

It’s a wretched thing when one reads of a retch of a person doing horrible things. Even worse when I’m thinking of this person vomiting everywhere, when it turns out that they’re merely a miserable person. In other words, a wretch.

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.

If you found this post on “Retch versus Wretch” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Retch Wretch
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Two girls in pretty pink dresses with one retching into the grass

“Oktoberfest 2011 Drunken Female” is Usien’s own work under the CC0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Yep, she’s definitely retching up all that beer.

Elderly Japanese man lying back in a wheelchair surrounded by his worldly goods, tied on around the sides

“Homeless man, Tokyo”, 2008, is MichaelMaggs’ own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

He’s but a poor wretch, out on the streets.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: retches
Past tense or past participle: retched
Gerund or present participle: retching

Plural for the noun: wretches
The act or action of vomiting

A movement or sound of vomiting

Verb, intransitive:
Make the sound and movement of vomiting

  • Make efforts to vomit

Verb, transitive:
To vomit

A person

A deplorably unfortunate or unhappy person

  • [Informal] A despicable or contemptible person
That retching is making me sick to my stomach.

With a sudden retch, he vomited all over the floor.

Verb, intransitive:
Listening to him retch is making me sick to my stomach.

The sour taste in her mouth made her retch.

Verb, transitive:
Jerry? He’s retching his heart out in the bathroom.

He retched up a thin stream of vomit.

Can the poor wretch’s corpse tell us anything?

Those ungrateful wretches.

I can’t believe you did this, you wretch!

Noun: retch Adjective: wretched, wretcheder, wretchedest
Adverb: wretchedly
Noun: wretchedness
History of the Word:
Mid-19th century is a variant of the dialect reach, from a Germanic base meaning spittle. Old English wrecca (also in the sense of banished person) is related to the German Recke meaning warrior, hero.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Vomiting Erbrechen drunk” is Usien’s own work under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons.