wench (plural wenches)

  1. (archaic, now, dialectal or humorous, possibly, offensive) A girl or young#Adjective|young woman, especially a buxom or lively one.
    Jane played the role of a wench in an Elizabethan comedy.
    • 1590, Philippe Sidnei [i.e., Philip Sidney], “[The Second Booke] Chapter 14”, in Fulke Greville, Matthew Gwinne, and John Florio, editors, The Covntesse of Pembrokes Arcadia [The New Arcadia], London: Printed [by John Windet] for William Ponsonbie, OCLC 801077108 ↗; republished in Albert Feuillerat, editor, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia (Cambridge English Classics: The Complete Works of Sir Philip Sidney; I), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: At the University Press, 1912, OCLC 318419127 ↗, page 238 ↗:
      I, like a tẽder harted wench, skriked out for feare of the divell.
    • c. 1604–1605, William Shakespeare, “All’s VVell, that Ends VVell”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act IV, scene iii], page 247 ↗, column 2:
      [H]ee weepes like a wench that had ſhed her / milke, he hath confeſt himſelfe to Morgan, whom hee ſuppoſes to be a Friar, [...]
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, […] (King James Version), imprinted at London: By Robert Barker, […], OCLC 964384981 ↗, 2 Samuel 17:17–Ahimaaz}} ſtayed by En-rogel: (for they might not be ſeene to come into the citie) and a wench went and told them: and they went, and tolde king Dauid. ↗, column 1:
      Now Jonathan and {{w
    • [1611?], Homer, “Book I”, in Geo[rge] Chapman, transl., The Iliads of Homer Prince of Poets. […], London: Printed for Nathaniell Butter, OCLC 614803194 ↗; The Iliads of Homer, Prince of Poets, […] In Two Volumes, volume I, new edition, London: Charles Knight and Co., […], 1843, OCLC 987451361 ↗, page 35 ↗:
      Beside, this I affirm—afford / Impression of it in thy soul—I will not use my sword / On thee or any for a wench, unjustly though thou tak'st / The thing thou gav'st; [...]
    • 1726 October 27, [Jonathan Swift], “A Continuation of the State of England; so Well Governed by a Queen as to Need No First Minister. The Character of Such an One in Some European Courts.”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. […] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume II, London: Printed for Benj[amin] Motte, […], OCLC 995220039 ↗, part IV (A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms), page 248 ↗:
      He [a chief minister] is uſually governed by a decayed Wench, or favourite Footman, who are the Tunnels through which all Graces are conveyed, and may properly be called, in the laſt Reſort, the Governors of the Kingdom.
    • 1887, William Black, “New Quarters”, in Sabina Zembra: A Novel [...] In Three Volumes, volume III, London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., OCLC 22523627 ↗, page 22 ↗:
      He was received by the daughter of the house, a pretty, buxom, blue-eyed little wench, who seemed to regard the tall, bronzed, black-eyed stranger with much and evident favour.
    1. (specifically) A girl or young woman of a lower class.
  2. (archaic or dialectal) Used as a term of endearment for a female#Adjective|female person, especially a wife, daughter, or girlfriend: darling, sweetheart.
    • 1613, William Shakespeare; [John Fletcher], “The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act IV, scene ii], page 226 ↗, column 2:
      When I am dead, good Wench, / Let me be vs'd with Honor; ſtrew me ouer / With Maiden Flowers, that all the world may know / I was a chaſte Wife, to my Graue: [...]
    • 1856, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Third Book”, in Aurora Leigh, London: Chapman and Hall, […], published 1857, OCLC 1000396166 ↗, page 126 ↗:
      The mother held her tight, / Saying hard between her teeth—'Why wench, why wench, / The squire speaks to you now—the squire's too good; / He means to set you up, and comfort us. / Be mannerly at least.'
  3. (archaic) A woman servant; a maidservant.
    • [1526], [William Tyndale, transl.], The Newe Testamēt […] (Tyndale Bible), [Worms, Germany: Peter Schöffer], OCLC 762018299 ↗; republished as The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: Published in 1526. […], London: Samuel Bagster, […], 1836, OCLC 679500256 ↗, The Gospell off S. Luke XXII:[55–57], folio lxxii, recto and verso, recto, pages [242–243] ↗:
      When they had kyndled a fyre in the myddes of the palys / and were sett doune to gedder / Peter alsoo sate doune amonge them. And won off the wenches / as he sate / beholde him by the light and sett goode eyesight on him / and sayde: This same was also with hym. Then he denyed hym sayinge: Woman I knowe hym nott.
    • 1819, Jedadiah Cleishbotham [pseudonym; Walter Scott], chapter V, in Tales of My Landlord, Third Series. [...] In Four Volumes, volume I (The Bride of Lammermoor), Edinburgh: Printed [by James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, […]; Hurst, Robinson, and Co. […], OCLC 277985465 ↗, page 150 ↗:
      "I fear there is a chase; I think I hear three or four galloping together; I am sure I hear more horses than one." / "Pooh, pooh, it is the wench of the house that is clattering to the well in her patten#English|pattens; [...]."
  4. (archaic) A promiscuous woman; a mistress.
    Synonyms: Thesaurus:promiscuous woman, Thesaurus:mistress
    • [1387–1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Manciples Tale”, in The Canterbury Tales (in Middle English), [Westminster: William Caxton, published 1478], OCLC 230972125 ↗; republished in [William Thynne], editor, The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newlye Printed, […], [London]: Printed by [Richard Grafton for] Iohn Reynes […], 1542, OCLC 932884868 ↗, folio xcix, recto ↗:
      There is but litel difference truely / Betwyxt a wyfe, that is of hye degre / If of her body dishoneſt ſhe be / And a poore wenche, other than this / If it ſo be they werke bothe amys / But for the gentyl is in eſtate aboue / She ſhal be called his lady and his loue / And for that tother is a poore woman / She ſhal be called his wench, or his leman#Middle English|lemmã [...]
      (please add an English translation of this quote)]
    • c. 1589–1590, Christopher Marlo[we], Tho[mas] Heywood, editor, The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Ievv of Malta. […], London: Printed by I[ohn] B[eale] for Nicholas Vavasour, […], published 1633, OCLC 1121318438 ↗, Act IV ↗:
      2 [Friar Bernardine]. Thou haſt committed— / Bar[abas]. Fornication? but that was in another Country; And beſides, the Wench is dead.
    • It must not thought a digression from my intended speculation, to talk of bawds in a discourse upon wenches; for a woman of the town is not thoroughly and properly such, without having gone through the education of one of these houses.
  5. (archaic) A prostitute#Noun|prostitute.
  6. (US, archaic or historical) A black#Adjective|black woman (of any age#Noun|age), especially if in a condition#Noun|condition of servitude.
    Synonyms: negress
    • 1851 June – 1852 April, Harriet Beecher Stowe, “[Eliza’s Escape]”, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly, volume I, Boston, Mass.: John P[unchard] Jewett & Company; Cleveland, Oh.: Jewett, Proctor & Worthington, published 20 March 1852, OCLC 976451739 ↗, page 100 ↗:
      Now, I bought a gal once, when I was in the trade,—a tight, likely wench she was, too, and quite considerable smart— [...]
Translations Translations Translations Translations Translations

wench (wenches, present participle wenching; past and past participle wenched)

  1. (intransitive, archaic, now, humorous) To frequent#Verb|frequent prostitute#Noun|prostitutes; to whore#Verb|whore; also, to womanize.
    • 1822 May 28, [Walter Scott], chapter VIII, in The Fortunes of Nigel. [...] In Three Volumes, volume III, Edinburgh: Printed [by James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., OCLC 277973588 ↗, page 231 ↗:
      This Dalgarno does not drink so much, or swear so much, as his father; but he wenches, Geordie, and he breaks his word and oath baith.