[ wens, hwens ]
See synonyms for whence on Thesaurus.com
  1. from what place?: Whence comest thou?

  2. from what source, origin, or cause?: Whence has he wisdom?

  1. 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

usage note For whence

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.

Words that may be confused with whence

Words Nearby whence

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How to use whence in a sentence

  • The Colonel and his two friends rode back towards the south, from whence they came.

  • O wicked presumption, whence camest thou to cover the earth with thy malice, and deceitfulness?

  • These are obtained easily, whence follow the sinister reports that they give your Majesty, to the harm of the public welfare.

  • Once he suddenly found himself in the road driving a small flock of goats, whose he knew not, nor whence he got them.

    Ramona | Helen Hunt Jackson
  • Several sentinels drew around the vehicle, with demands whence it came, and what was the object of the persons it contained.

British Dictionary definitions for whence


/ (wɛns) archaic, or formal /

  1. from what place, cause, or origin?

  1. (subordinating) from what place, cause, or origin

Origin of whence

C13 whannes, adverbial genitive of Old English hwanon; related to Old Frisian hwana, Old High German hwanan

usage For whence

The expression from whence should be avoided, since whence already means from which place: the tradition whence (not from whence) such ideas flowed

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