whence

[ hwens, wens ]
/ ʰwɛns, wɛns /

adverb

from what place?: Whence comest thou?
from what source, origin, or cause?: Whence has he wisdom?

conjunction

from what place, source, cause, etc.: He told whence he came.

Nearby words

  1. when're,
  2. when's,
  3. when've,
  4. when-issued,
  5. whenas,
  6. whencesoever,
  7. whene'er,
  8. whenever,
  9. whensoever,
  10. whenua

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for whence


British Dictionary definitions for whence

whence

/ (wɛns) archaic, or formal /

adverb

from what place, cause, or origin?

pronoun

(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

usage

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