1. the destruction or loss of a ship, as by sinking.
  2. the remains of a wrecked ship.
  3. destruction or ruin: the shipwreck of one’s hopes.

verb (used with object)

  1. to cause to suffer shipwreck.
  2. to destroy; ruin.

verb (used without object)

  1. to suffer shipwreck.


  1. the partial or total destruction of a ship at sea
  2. a wrecked ship or part of such a ship
  3. ruin or destructionthe shipwreck of all my hopes

verb (tr)

  1. to wreck or destroy (a ship)
  2. to bring to ruin or destruction

mid-15c., from ship (n.) + wreck (n.). Earlier it meant “things cast up from a shipwreck” (c.1100). The earlier word for “shipwreck” in the modern sense was Middle English schipbreke, “‘ship-break,'” from a North Sea Germanic word, cf. West Frisian skipbrek, Middle Dutch schipbroke, German Schiffbruch, Old English scipgebroc. Old English scipbryce meant “right to claim goods from a wrecked ship.”


1580s, “cause to wreck;” c.1600, “to suffer shipwreck,” from shipwreck (n.). Related: Shipwrecked.

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