gladly; willingly: He fain would accept.


content; willing: They were fain to go.
Archaic. constrained; obliged: He was fain to obey his Lord.
Archaic. glad; pleased.
Archaic. desirous; eager.

Origin of fain

before 900; Middle English; Old English fæg(e)n; cognate with Old Norse feginn happy; akin to fair1
Can be confusedfain faint feign feint
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for fain

eager, game, inclined, minded, prepared, ready

Examples from the Web for fain

Historical Examples of fain

  • It was only as he exclaimed, “Good aunt, I am fain to see thee here!”

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • A burst of Homeric laughter was Sir William's reply--laughter in which all were fain to join.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • The mate admired at a mood so novel for his commander, but he was fain to submit.

    Homeward Bound

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Bowed then to bench those bearers-of-glory, fain of the feasting.



  • But, no thanks unto him, the Bible he was fain to leave unmeddled with.

British Dictionary definitions for fain



(usually with would) archaic willingly; gladlyshe would fain be dead


  1. willing or eager
  2. compelled

Word Origin for fain

Old English fægen; related to Old Norse fegiun happy, Old High German gifehan to be glad, Gothic fahehs joy; see fawn ²
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 fain

Old English fægen, fagen "glad, cheerful, happy, joyful, rejoicing," from a common Germanic root (cf. Old Saxon fagan, Old Norse feginn "glad," Old High German faginon, Gothic faginon "to rejoice"), perhaps from PIE *pek- "to make pretty." As an adverb, from c.1200.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper