1. 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.
2. A sudden, forcible twist, turn, or pull: gave the steering wheel a wrench.
3. An injury produced by twisting or straining: The fall gave my ankle a wrench.
4. A sudden feeling of compassion, sorrow, or anguish, or an act that causes such feeling: "Bidding goodbye to Buss was a wrench" (Edna O'Brien).
5. A distortion in the original form or meaning of something written or spoken; a twisted interpretation.
v. wrenched, wrench·ing, wrench·es
a. To twist, turn, or pull suddenly and forcibly: wrenched the door open.
b. To twist and sprain: I wrenched my knee.
c. To turn using a wrench: wrenched the nut onto the bolt.
a. To move, extract, or force free by twisting, turning, or pulling forcibly: wrenched the nail out of the board.
b. To free (oneself or a body part) by twisting, turning, or pulling: wrenched his arm from the thug's grasp.
3. To upset the feelings or emotions of; distress: Grief wrenched her heart.
4. To interpret unreasonably or inaccurately; distort: wrenched the text to prove her point.
1. To give a twist, turn, or pull: wrenched at the window trying to open it.
2. To cause distress: The memory wrenched at his conscience.
[From Middle English wrenchen, to twist, from Old English wrencan; see wer-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)wrench
left to right: ratcheting box, adjustable, and open end wrenches
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.