Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Whence, Hence, Thence

Tim from Old Mission called in to ask about the words whence and hence. There was a followup call from David in Traverse City to add thence to the pile. We might as well throw in whither and thither, too.

Whence: from what place? One 13th century Middle English form was whannes.
Whens comyst thow, and whithir gost thow?”  [Wycliffe Bible Gen. xvi. 8]
 (Whence come you and whither go you?)
Hence: away from here. Its 13th century Middle English form was hennes.
 “Ich it wolle hennes lede.” [South English Legendary I. 41/231]
(Each it will hence lead)

Thence: from that place. One 13th century Middle English form was thennes.
“Ha [Christ] wente into helle..uor to draȝe þannes..þe zaules of þe holi uaderes.” [Ayenbite of Inwyt 12]
 (He went into hell to draw thence the souls of the holy fathers)

Whither: to what place?  The Old English 10th century form was hwider.
“Hwider fare we?” [Ælfric Deut. i. 28]
(Whither go we?)

Thither:  to or towards that place. Old English forms included ðider, þider,  and þæder.
“On mergen com se biscop þæder.”  [Old English Martyrology 190]
(One morning came the bishop thither.)


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