• synonyms


[urst-hwahyl, -wahyl]
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  1. former; of times past: erstwhile friends.
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  1. Archaic. formerly; erst.
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Origin of erstwhile

First recorded in 1560–70; erst + while


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for erstwhile

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • He was beset on either side by the merciless fangs of his erstwhile comrades.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • It was pitiful to see the erstwhile Whittaker majority melt away.

    Cy Whittaker's Place

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Mr. Hungerford and his erstwhile chum did not speak to each other at all now.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • That erstwhile habit of Sakr-el-Bahr's was one not easy to condone.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • Among them I recognized with a start my erstwhile guard, Holaf, of the Zervs.

British Dictionary definitions for erstwhile


  1. former; one-timemy erstwhile companions
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  1. archaic long ago; formerly
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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

Word Origin and History for erstwhile


1560s, from Middle English erest "soonest, earliest," from Old English ærest, superlative of ær (see ere) + while. As an adjective from 1903. Cognate with Old Saxon and Old High German erist, German erst.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper