[hwens, wens]
See more synonyms for whence on Thesaurus.com
  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
Can be confusedhence 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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for whence


Examples from the Web for whence

Contemporary Examples of whence

Historical Examples of whence

  • I asked, 'Is this the divine home, whence I departed into the body?'


    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


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

Word Origin for whence

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


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

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