Wreak havoc (and wreaked vs. wrought)

Havoc means widespread destruction. Wreak, a rare verb most common in British English, means to bring about. So to wreak havoc is to bring about widespread destruction. Havoc may reek, and it may cause a wreck, but reek havoc and wreck havoc are nonsensical phrases.

The past tense of wreak is wreaked, so the past tense of wreak havoc is wreaked havoc. Forget the old, oft-repeated myth that the past tense of wreak is wroughtWrought is an archaic past-tense form of work, and it serves as an adjective in its own right, but it has nothing to do with wreaking.


Holiday blizzards wreak havoc in central United States. [BBC]

Winter can make you go into hibernation mode and crave fatty foods, which can wreak havoc on your skin. [The Utah Statesman]

Tropical Storm Isaac has wreaked havoc on the GOP convention schedule and is expected to take aim for the Gulf coast. [Wall Street Journal]

The move comes two months after a software update wreaked havoc with payments processing for 17m accounts. [Financial Times]

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