English edit

Etymology edit

From Middle English whennes, from Old English hwanon (with adverbial genitive -s), related to hwonne (whence when). Analyzable as when +‎ -s.

Pronunciation edit

Adverb edit

whence (not comparable)

  1. (archaic, formal or literary) From where; from which place or source.
    Antonym: whither
    Whence came I?
    "Pork" comes from French, whence we get most of our modern cooking terms.
    Go to whence you came!
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, John 8:14, column 1:
      Ieſus anſwered, and ſaid vnto them, Though I beare record of my ſelfe, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I goe: but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I goe.
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “A Further Account of Glubbdubdrib. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume II, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part III (A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdribb, Luggnagg, and Japan), page 108:
      I could plainly diſcover from whence one Family derives a long Chin; why a ſecond hath abounded with Knaves for two Generations, and Fools for two more; why a third happened to be crack-brained, and a fourth to be Sharpers.
    • 1818, [Mary Shelley], chapter III, in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. [], volume I, London: [] [Macdonald and Son] for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, →OCLC, pages 81–82:
      Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed?
    • 1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Sea Chest”, in Treasure Island, London, Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, →OCLC, part I (The Old Buccaneer), page 29:
      [W]hat greatly encouraged me, it was in an opposite direction from that whence the blind man had made his appearance, and whither he had presumably returned.
    • 1883, A. E. Housman, Fragment of a Greek Tragedy:
      O suitably-attired-in-leather-boots
      Head of a traveller, wherefore seeking whom
      Whence by what way how purposed art thou come
      To this well-nightingaled vicinity?
    • 1885, Richard F[rancis] Burton, transl. and editor, “The Seventh Voyage of Sindbad the Seaman”, in A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, now Entituled The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night [], Shammar edition, volume VI, [London]: [] Burton Club [], →OCLC, page 71:
      [] But when I had bestridden the plank, quoth I to myself, "Thou deservest all that betideth thee. All this is decreed to me of Allah (whose name be exalted!), to turn me from my greed of gain, whence ariseth all that I endure, for I have wealth galore."
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, “A Discovery”, in Moonfleet, London, Toronto, Ont.: Jonathan Cape, published 1934, page 47:
      At first I could not tell what this new sound was, nor whence it came, and now it seemed a little noise close by, and now a great noise in the distance. And then it grew nearer and more defined, and in a moment I knew it was the sound of voices talking.
    • 1936, Robert Frost, “The Vindictives”, in A Further Range:
      They swore all the gold should go back
      Deep into the earth whence it came.

Usage notes edit

  • This word is uncommon in contemporary usage; from where is now usually substituted (as in the example sentence: Where did I come from? or From where did I come?). Whence is now mainly encountered in older works and in poetic or literary writing. As a result of the obsolescence of the older directional verb system, words like whence and its antonym whither are sometimes used interchangeably as hypercorrect synonyms of where.
  • From whence has a strong literary precedent, appearing in Wyclif's Bible translation, Shakespeare and the King James Bible, as well as in the writings of numerous Victorian-era writers. In recent times, however, it has been criticized as redundant by some usage commentators.

Derived terms edit

Related terms edit

Translations edit

Conjunction edit


  1. (literary, poetic) Used for introducing the result of a fact that has just been stated; thence
    The work is slow and dangerous, whence the high costs.
    I scored more than you in the exam, whence we can conclude that I am better at the subject than you are.

Antonyms edit

Related terms edit

Translations edit

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.