Wench or Winch

When I took sailing lessons, I heard many people call a winch a wench. Here's a tip to help you remember the difference.

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

"Wench" Versus "Winch"

Wench comes from the Middle English word wenchel, which meant “child.” A wenchel was a child of either sex, but today wench refers to a woman. It’s most often used as a joke or an insult, but technically it can mean a country girl, a servant, a loose woman, or simply a young woman.

Winch comes from the Old English word wince, which meant “pully.” I’ve used winches on sailboats to pull and tighten line—a winch is any type of crank.

Quick and Dirty Tip: Remember that winch is spelled with an i by associating it with the word wince: You may wince if you pull too hard on a winch.

Winch photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

winch or wench

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.

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