wench

wench
   This old-fashioned word for a girl or woman would probably only be used jokingly in modern times, though from the sixteenth century it was commonly used as an endearment to a man’s wife, daughter, or sweetheart.
   In the Shakespeare plays many young ladies are addressed as ‘wench’, ‘sweet wench’, ‘good wench’, etc. Such usage persisted into the nineteenth century.
   In George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss a father calls his daughter ‘my wench’. Mrs Gaskell, in Cranford, has: ‘So, Martha, wench, what’s the use of crying so? In The Exhibitionist, by Henry Sutton, set in the 1960s, use of the term to his lover by a male character is clearly humorous.
   Since the word was at one time especially associated with country girls, milkmaids, and other country wenches, and with serving wenches, or maid servants, it could never be applied to young ladies of high birth. Until the eighteenth century ‘wench’ was also commonly used of prostitutes. It is probably the serving-maid connotation which has survived most strongly, so that a man using the term in modern times implies that the woman concerned is there to attend to him. Few men now dare to do such a thing seriously, hence the joking usage. ‘You think last night was enough to quench my burning passion?’ says a young American to his bride, in War Brides, by Lois Battle. ‘Come over here, m’wench,’ he adds.

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.

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  • Wench — (w[e^]nch), n. [OE. wenche, for older wenchel a child, originally, weak, tottering; cf. AS. wencle a maid, a daughter, wencel a pupil, orphan, wincel, winclu, children, offspring, wencel weak, wancol unstable, OHG. wanchol; perhaps akin to E.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • wench´er — wench «wehnch», noun, verb. –n. 1. a girl or young woman. 2. a) a woman servant: »a kitchen wench. b) any girl considered as belonging to the class of workers or peasants: »a buxom country wench. 3. Archaic. a wanton woman. –v.i. to seek out and… …   Useful english dictionary

  • wench — [wench] n. [ME wenche, contr. < wenchel, child, boy, girl, young woman < OE wencel, a child, akin to wancol, unsteady (? in reference to an infant s gait): for IE base see WINCH] 1. a girl or young woman: now a derogatory or jocular term 2 …   English World dictionary

  • Wench — (w[e^]nch), v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Wenched} (w[e^]ncht); p. pr. & vb. n. {Wenching}.] To frequent the company of wenches, or women of ill fame. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • wench — wench·er; wench; …   English syllables

  • wench — [wentʃ] n [Date: 1200 1300; Origin: wenchel child (11 14 centuries), from Old English wencel] old use a girl or young woman, especially a servant …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • wench — [ wentʃ ] noun count 1. ) an old word for a young woman, often a servant a ) an old word for a woman who is a prostitute (=someone who has sex for money) 2. ) an offensive or humorous word for a woman …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • wench — late 13c., wenche girl or young woman, shortened from wenchel child (12c.), from O.E. wencel, probably related to wancol unsteady, fickle, weak, and cognate with O.N. vakr child, weak person, O.H.G. wanchal fickle. The word degenerated through… …   Etymology dictionary

  • wench — ► NOUN archaic or humorous ▪ a girl or young woman. ORIGIN abbreviation of obsolete wenchel «child, servant, prostitute» …   English terms dictionary

  • wench — wencher, n. /wench/, n. 1. a country lass or working girl: The milkmaid was a healthy wench. 2. Usually facetious. a girl or young woman. 3. Archaic. a strumpet. v.i. 4. to associate, esp. habitually, with promiscuous women. [1250 1300; ME, back… …   Universalium

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