E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
is the Anglo-Saxon word wencle, a child. It is now chiefly used derogatorily, and the word wenching is quite offensive. In the Midland counties, when a peasant addresses his wife as my wench, he expresses endearment.
Wench, like girl, was at one time applied to either sex. Chaucer has yonge-girls for youngsters of both sexes. We find the phrase knave-girl used for boys; and Isaac, in the Ormulum, is called a wench or wenchel. Similarly, maid is applied to both sexes, hence the compound mden-fmne, a female child or maiden.