From Middle English athwert, athirt, equivalent to a- +‎ thwart. Cognate with Scots athort (athwart).



athwart (comparative more athwart, superlative most athwart)

  1. (archaic) From side to side; across.
    Synonym: overthwart
    Above, the stars appeared to move slowly athwart.
    We placed one log on the ground, and another athwart, forming a crude cross.
    • 1650, Thomas Browne, “Of the Same [i.e., the Blacknesse of Negroes]”, in Pseudodoxia Epidemica: [], 2nd edition, London: [] A. Miller, for Edw[ard] Dod and Nath[aniel] Ekins, [], OCLC 152706203, 6th book, page 282:
      Thus the Aſſe having a peculiar mark of a croſſe made by a black liſt down his back, and another athwart, or at right angles down his ſhoulders; common opinion aſcribes this figure unto a peculiar ſignation; ſince that beaſt had the honour to bear our Saviour on his back.
    • 1887, H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure[1]:
      Just as the first ray of the rising sun shot like a golden arrow athwart this storied desolation we gained the further gateway of the outer wall[.]
  2. (archaic) Across the path (of something).
    a fleet standing athwart our course
    • 2014 September 7, Natalie Angier, “The Moon comes around again [print version: Revisiting a moon that still has secrets to reveal: Supermoon revives interest in its violent origins and hidden face, International New York Times, 10 September 2014, p. 8]”, in The New York Times[2]:
      And should the moon happen to hit its ever-shifting orbital perigee at the same time that it lies athwart from the sun, we are treated to a so-called supermoon, a full moon that can seem close enough to embrace – as much as 12 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than the average full moon.
  3. (archaic) Wrongly; perplexingly.




  1. (archaic) From one side to the other side of.
    Synonym: overthwart
    The stars moved slowly athwart the sky.
  2. (nautical) Across the line of a ship's course or across its deck.
    The damaged mainmast fell athwart the deck, destroying the ship's boat.
  3. Across the path or course of; opposing.
    Synonym: opposing
    • 1902, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Folio Society 2008, p.283:
      It is the voice of human experience within us, judging and condemning all gods that stand athwart the pathway along which it feels itself to be advancing.
    • 2005, Tony Judt, “The Spectre of Revolution”, in Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945, London: Vintage Books, published 2010, →ISBN:
      The new fashions were perforce addressed to the more prosperous young: the children of Europe’s white middle-class, who could afford records, concerts, shoes, clothes, make-up and modish hair-styling. But the presentation of these wares cut ostentatiously athwart conventional lines.


  • 1816, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan
    But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted / Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
  • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter V, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326:
    Breezes blowing from beds of iris quickened her breath with their perfume; she saw the tufted lilacs sway in the wind, and the streamers of mauve-tinted wistaria swinging, all a-glisten with golden bees; she saw a crimson cardinal winging through the foliage, and amorous tanagers flashing like scarlet flames athwart the pines.

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