AskDefine | Define whence

The Collaborative Dictionary

Whence \Whence\, adv. [OE. whennes, whens (with adverbial s, properly a genitive ending; -- see -wards), also whenne, whanene, AS. hwanan, hwanon, hwonan, hwanone; akin to D. when. See When, and cf. Hence, Thence.] [1913 Webster]
From what place; hence, from what or which source, origin, antecedent, premise, or the like; how; -- used interrogatively. [1913 Webster] Whence hath this man this wisdom? --Matt. xiii.
[1913 Webster] Whence and what art thou? --Milton. [1913 Webster]
From what or which place, source, material, cause, etc.; the place, source, etc., from which; -- used relatively. [1913 Webster] Grateful to acknowledge whence his good Descends. --Milton. [1913 Webster] Note: All the words of this class, whence, where, whither, whereabouts, etc., are occasionally used as pronouns by a harsh construction. [1913 Webster] O, how unlike the place from whence they fell? --Milton. [1913 Webster] Note: From whence, though a pleonasm, is fully authorized by the use of good writers. [1913 Webster] From whence come wars and fightings among you? --James iv.
[1913 Webster] Of whence, also a pleonasm, has become obsolete. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

whence adv : from what place or origin or source; "whence did he come?"; "whence comes this splendid feast?"; "sketches the lawless society whence the ballads sprang"-DeLancey Ferguson [syn: wherefrom]

Moby Thesaurus

accordingly, away, because of that, because of this, consequently, derivation, ergo, for that, for that cause, for that reason, for this cause, for this reason, for which reason, forth, fountain, hence, hereat, inception, off, on that account, on that ground, on this account, origin, out, propter hoc, provenance, provenience, root, then, thence, thereat, therefor, therefore, therefrom, thereof, thus, thusly, thuswise, well, wellspring, wherefore, wherefrom



  • , /ʍɛns/, /Wens/
  • , /wɛns/, /wens/
  • Rhymes: -ɛns


  1. From where; from which place or source.
    Whence came I?

Usage notes

  • This word is uncommon in modern usage; from where is now usually substituted (as in the example sentence: Where did I come from? or From where did I come?). It is now chiefly encountered in older works, or in poetic or literary writing.
  • From whence has a strong literary precedent, appearing in 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 usage commentators.


From where; from which place or source


  1. From where.
    I do not know whence I came.
  2. In the context of "literary|poetic": From which.
    From French, whence we get most of our modern cooking terms.
    I scored more than you in the exam, whence we can conclude that I am better at the subject than you are.


From where
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