early 13c., "goods cast ashore after a shipwreck, flotsam," from Anglo-French wrec, from Old Norse *wrek (cf. Norwegian, Icelandic rek) "wreck, flotsam," related to reka "to drive, push" (see wreak). The meaning "a shipwreck" is first recorded mid-15c.; that of "a wrecked ship" is from c.1500. General sense of "remains of anything that has been ruined" is recorded from 1713; applied by 1795 to dissipated persons.