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whence

[ hwens, wens ]
/ ʰwɛns, wɛns /
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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.

QUIZZES

QUIZ YOURSELF ON “THEIR,” “THERE,” AND “THEY’RE”

Are you aware how often people swap around “their,” “there,” and “they’re”? Prove you have more than a fair grasp over these commonly confused words.
Question 1 of 7
Which one of these commonly confused words can act as an adverb or a pronoun?

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

1. hence, hither, thence, thither, whence , whither, yon (see usage note at the current entry)2. when, whence
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

Example sentences 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 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
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