retch vs. wretch

What is the difference between retch and wretch?

Retch and wretch are both pronounced /rɛtʃ/; the W in wretch is silent. Other than the pronunciation, though, these two terms are entirely dissimilar.
Retch is a verb meaning “to vomit or try to vomit,” as in:
  • “The smell of the chemicals nearly made me retch.”
Wretch, meanwhile, is a noun meaning “a person considered despicable, base, or morally repugnant,” or “a pitiably or deplorably unhappy or unfortunate person.” For example:
  • “It makes me sick to know that such a boorish wretch is now running the company.”
  • “The poor wretch couldn’t even afford a cup of coffee.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

To remember the difference in spelling between the two words, remember that a wretch is someone who you think does things that are wrong.

What is the difference between retched and wretched?

The words retch and wretch also lead to two similar words, retched and wretched. Retched is simply the past tense of retch, while wretched is an adjective form of wretch (generally meaning “in a dismal state or characterized by woe or misfortune” or “despicable, contemptible, or base”). For example:
  • “I retched after inhaling the fumes of the chemicals.”
  • “We lived in a wretched little apartment in Brooklyn for a few years.”
In addition to the difference in meanings established by their base words, these terms are also pronounced slightly differently. Retched is pronounced /rɛtʃt/, with the final E being silent and D being pronounced /t/; wretched is pronounced /ˈrɛtʃɪd/, more phonetically representing the suffix “-ed.”
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