Origin of wanton

1250–1300; Middle English wantowen literally, undisciplined, ill-reared, Old English wan- not + togen past participle of tēon to discipline, rear, cognate with German ziehen, Latin dūcere to lead; akin to tow1

Related forms

wan·ton·ly, adverbwan·ton·ness, nounun·wan·ton, adjective

Can be confused

wanton won ton
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wanton

British Dictionary definitions for wanton


/ (ˈwɒntən) /



a licentious person, esp a woman
a playful or capricious person


(intr) to behave in a wanton manner
(tr) to squander or waste

Derived Forms

wantonly, adverbwantonness, noun

Word Origin for wanton

C13 wantowen (in the obsolete sense: unmanageable, unruly): from wan- (prefix equivalent to un- 1; related to Old English wanian to wane) + -towen, from Old English togen brought up, from tēon to bring up
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