Avenge or revenge?

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In our discussions on ‘Hamlet’ some queries have arisen on the use of ‘avenge’ and ‘revenge’ – when is each word to be used? It is very simple. Avenge is a verb and revenge is a noun.

Avenge (v.) to inflict harm in return for (an injury or wrong); to inflict retribution on behalf of (a wronged person).

Hamlet was instructed by the ghost to avenge his ‘murder most foul’.

Revenge (n.) retaliation for an injury or wrong; the desire to repay an injury or wrong.

Hamlet’s revenge was a drawn-out affair. He did not keep his word when he said ‘that I, with wings as swift / As meditation or the thoughts of love, / May sweep to my revenge’.

The noun revenge may be put into verb form in the following ways:

to revenge oneself, to be revenged, to take revenge, to exact revenge.

It may also be used as an adjective:

It is easy to see that Hamlet’s murder of Claudius is a revenge killing.

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