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What is the difference between rack, wrack, wreak, and wreck?

To wreak is to inflict vengeance; to wreck is to damage or destroy. Wreak is not found often in English except in the idiom wreak havoc. Wrack as a verb is obsolete but means 'to avenge or revenge; to punish', 'to undergo ruin'. Rack as a verb is used figuratively to mean 'to chalk up; to achieve' and 'to torture; to cause severe pain' (as in the rack as an instrument of torture). It is also used to mean 'to obtain through coercion or intimidation'. Examples: She racked up points in the pool game. Pain racked his body. He racked his brain for the answer. Wrack as a noun means 'destruction' and occurs mainly in wrack and ruin. The word rack is a variant and can be used in that phrase.

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