Is "wrought" always used with negative connotation?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by cheshire, Aug 3, 2007.

  1. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Please take a look at this sentence fragment: "democracy wrought by the U.S. occupation" without any context. I picked up from
    In the dictionary, most of the word "wrought" in example sentences (as follows) seem to be used with negative connotation. I have, therefore, reservation for using "wrought" in "democracy wrought by the US occupation," unless I really mean the US occupation did a bad job of instituting democracy to the country. Is the word "wrought" neutral? Or is it only used with negative connotation?
    segregation wrought by housing pattern
    tragedy wrought by hurricane
    work to repair the damage wrought by natural disasters
    democracy wrought by the U.S. occupation
    devastation wrought by the war
  2. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I've never thought about it before, but now that you mention it I think you're right and "wrought" is generally used in a negative sense. (I say "generally" because I've learned my lesson about saying "always" and "never", especially here in WordRef!)
  3. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    What about this specific sentence fragment, "democracy wrought by the U.S. occupation"? Do you feel "wrought" is used in a negative sense?
  4. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    In my (own, personal, non-authoritative) opinion, the sentence is intentionally making ironic use of a word with generally negative connotation in conjunction with a value that is generally considered positive.
  5. domangelo Senior Member

    United States English
    I have to disagree. i don't think that the word "wrought" has a negative connotation. It gives the idea of hand-made, which can be a good thing, in that much care has been used to make it, or it can be bad, in that it is not as precise and efficient as something made by a machine. The most common used of this word in contemporary English is in the term "wrought iron", which is the type of iron that is used in artisan works, such as balcony railings.
  6. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    It is not only used for negative things. For example, when Morse first demonstrated his new invention of the telegraph, the first publicly sent telegraph message was "What hath God wrought", a quote of the Biblical verse Numbers 23:23, which is part of a blessing.
  7. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    The word is not negative in its original usage, such as in the bible. It is in fact the archaic past/participle of "to work", and is quite neutral. However, that is then and this is now. I wonder if the negative connotation that Cheshire has discerned comes from an association (not made by Cheshire, but by the writers of the examples) with "wreak"? Wreak also derives from a word meaning work, but has had a negative and rather violent connotation since the beginning, and now collocates with "havoc".
  8. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Most of the examples I find for "wrought" in a Google search are making reference to the famous message that GreenWhiteBlue mentioned. Filtering those and "wrought iron", it does seem like it is used in a negative sense more often than a positive one.

    However, there are also such article titles as; "Miracle worker: Cosmetics maven wrought a marvel of makeup on Hillary" and "How Change Is Wrought: First Through Education. By John Chuckman." It is an old version of the word "worked" in the sense of "crafted", and so, in and of itself, it does not automatically have a negative sense.

    To me, the word that has an unambiguous negative meaning is "wreak / wreaked." There is no doubt that the word is talking about something negative. In the examples given in the original post, "wreaked" works better for me than "wrought", except for "democracy wreaked." However, if the author's opinion is distinctly negative, "democracy wreaked" might be totally appropriate.

    I found something from the Maven's Word of the Day, a great resource. It must be an old article, because I can only find it cached in Google. It discusses this "wrought/wreaked" usage:

    So wrought is not an incorrect substitute for wreaked, but rather an archaic variant of worked. In this particular use, the verb work means 'to bring about or cause'. This meaning is similar to that of wreak, and like wreak, the reference often concerns damage or destruction. Or just as often, a good night's sleep can work miracles, or change can be wrought by computer technology.

    As you can see, "wrought" here is also presumed to be capable of being positive or negative, although it's often used when describing negative events.
  9. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Thanks! I got to learn the usages two words!
  10. Calybos Junior Member

    English - U.S.
    Is the present-tense form necessarily "wreak," then? Because that has an even stronger tendency to negative connotations.

    A playwright writes plays; a shipwright builds ships. But if you describe what these wrights will have wrought while they're still doing it... are they "wreaking"?
  11. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    As far as I know, "wrought" is an archaic past tense of "work", not "wreak." A few references I found seem to agree. Wrought iron is iron that has been worked into a shape.

    "Wreak" has its own past tense - "wreaked".
  12. domangelo Senior Member

    United States English
    The word "wrought" is often used in the phrase "wrought with..." meaning that the object in question has been embellished with a large amount of... The first example that came to my mind was "wrought with fraud," then I thought of "wrought with errors," and then I realized that maybe there are negative connotations to this word after all.

    A google search for the following phrases brought up these results:

    wrought with errors: 1,320
    wrought with fraud: 679

    wrought with evil: 157
    wrought with good: 1
    wrought with sadness: 622
    wrought with joy: 97
    wrought with happiness: 2
  13. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    That's odd. Most of those examples look like "wrought" has been mistakenly substituted for "fraught" to me. "Fraught with error" would make sense and is the common phrase I know, not "wrought with errors."

    Google results:

    Fraught with error - 32,600

    Of course, number of Google hits doesn't mean that it's correct, but I thought it might be useful for comparison.
  14. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Santa Maria, CA
    English (U.S.)
    "Wrought with error" sounds to me like someone got carried away with rhymes and should have instead written "fraught with error." As an irregular past tense of "to work" the phrase as you've written it does not make any sort of logical sense to me.

    Also, I don't think of wrought iron (my first adjective+noun association) as notably unpleasant, and it garners a rather hefty nine million Google hits.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2008
  15. msalyer Junior Member

    I don't think the word "wrought" has a necessarily negative connotation. In the 1800's people in the US would use the term to indicate that they had completed a work of needlepoint by sewing the words "wrought with love" and then the date and their name. I think the modern usage of the word has more of a scientific or cold feel. It is definitely not used in every day language but might be seen in a news article or referring to a wrought iron piece of furniture. I think a good synonym might be "render."
  16. domangelo Senior Member

    United States English

    Yikes! Red faced I am. I trusted my ear once again, and thus laid out my linguistic limits for all to see. Yes, of course. It should be fraught.
  17. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    English - England

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