mid-15c., "destruction or loss of a vessel by foundering at sea," from ship (n.) + wreck (n.). Earlier it meant "things cast up from a shipwreck" (c. 1100). The earlier word for "shipwreck" in the modern sense was Middle English schipbreke, ship-brekinge "ship-break, ship-breaking" (late 14c.), from a North Sea Germanic word (compare West Frisian skipbrek, Middle Dutch schipbroke, German Schiffbruch).
Old English scipgebroc seems not to have survived into Middle English. Old English scipbryce meant "right to claim goods from a wrecked ship." In modern use, ship-breaking (1897) is the breaking up of old vessels. In maritime law, ship-broken lingered into 18c. for "shipwrecked."
1580s, "cause (someone) to be subject to shipwreck;" c. 1600, intransitive, "to suffer shipwreck;" from shipwreck (n.). Related: Shipwrecked.
updated on September 11, 2022