Old English wryhta, wrihta (Northumbrian wyrchta, Kentish werhta) "worker," variant of earlier wyhrta "maker," from wyrcan "to work" (see work (v.)). Now usually in combinations (wheelwright, playwright, etc.) or as a surname. A common West Germanic word; cognate with Old Saxon wurhito, Old Frisian wrichta, Old High German wurhto.
Smith was the general term for a worker in metals, and wright for one who worked in wood, and other materials. Hence, in the later English period, smith (which, in Anglo-Saxon, when used without any characteristic addition, was understood as applying more particularly to the worker in iron,) became the particular name of a blacksmith, and wright of a carpenter, as it is still in Scotland. [Thomas Wright, "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies," 1884]
updated on February 27, 2022