No more anguish: Wrack vs. rack

A lot of writers’ heads start to hurt where these two words are concerned.

Rack, as a noun, has a multitude of meanings, including an “instrument of torture” (The henchmen tied the hero to the rack. ), “a frame” (He placed his bag in the luggage rack. ), or “a state of deep anguish.” As a verb, rack holds a related meaning of to torture.

Wrack, as a noun, means “destruction” (He gazed at the storm-damaged harbor’s wrack and ruin.
). As a verb, it means “to wreck,” and so to avoid confusion, you might as well just use wreck.

Given these definitions, you would write “rack your brain” (as you “torture your brain” not “wreck” it).

Finally, the torment is over.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.