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[hwens, wens] /ʰwɛns, wɛns/
from what place?:
Whence comest thou?
from what source, origin, or cause?:
Whence has he wisdom?
from what place, source, cause, etc.:
He told whence he came.
Origin of whence
1250-1300; Middle English whennes, whannes, equivalent to whanne (by syncope from Old English hwanone whence) + -s -s1
Can be confused
hence, hither, thence, thither, whence, whither, yon (see usage note at the current entry)
when, whence.
Usage note
Although sometimes criticized as redundant on the grounds that “from” is implied by the word whence, the idiom from whence is old in the language, well established, and standard. Among its users are the King James Bible, Shakespeare, Dryden, and Dickens: Hilary finally settled in Paris, from whence she bombarded us with letters, postcards, and sketches. From thence, a parallel construction, occurs infrequently. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for whence
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I asked, 'Is this the divine home, whence I departed into the body?'

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • In a moment, by one word, I can throw you back into the slough from whence I dragged you.

  • Knock at the door, whence the sable line of the funeral is next to issue!

    Main Street Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • What good would it do her to know who he was, from whence he came, or whither he was going?

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • We still stood by the open door, whence we had watched the carriage disappear.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
British Dictionary definitions for whence


from what place, cause, or origin?
(subordinating) from what place, cause, or origin
Usage note
The expression from whence should be avoided, since whence already means from which place: the tradition whence (not from whence) such ideas flowed
Word Origin
C13 whannes, adverbial genitive of Old English hwanon; related to Old Frisian hwana, Old High German hwanan
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for whence

c.1300, whennes, with adverbial genitive -s, from Old English hwanone, related to hwænne (see when).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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