"You canker blossom!" 3 Shakespearean Insults


[hwens, wens] /ʰwɛns, wɛns/
from what place?:
Whence comest thou?
from what source, origin, or cause?:
Whence has he wisdom?
from what place, source, cause, etc.:
He told whence he came.
Origin of whence
1250-1300; Middle English whennes, whannes, equivalent to whanne (by syncope from Old English hwanone whence) + -s -s1
Can be confused
hence, hither, thence, thither, whence, whither, yon (see usage note at the current entry)
when, whence.
Usage note
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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for whence
  • Chapters will gather the seeds, and forward them to collection centres, whence they will be shipped to the gas-mask plants.
  • Shed a thought, though, of whence this economic strength.
  • The great imposed order of the wall is returning to the chaos from whence it came.
  • The gas clouds whence they come tend to fragment, leading to multiple middling stars rather than a single heavyweight one.
  • Deserts are no problem, that's from whence it comes.
  • Which, given the city from whence our blogger hails, could be the more likely case.
  • The flood has vanished, ten billion tons of water sucked up into the atmosphere whence it came.
  • Otherwise, head back to whence you came and help fix your homeland.
  • Bringing it to the surface only returns it to the biosphere from whence it came.
  • Two other esquires were occupied in bringing wine to the dresser, from whence it was served to the guests at the tables.
British Dictionary definitions for whence


from what place, cause, or origin?
(subordinating) from what place, cause, or origin
Usage note
The expression from whence should be avoided, since whence already means from which place: the tradition whence (not from whence) such ideas flowed
Word Origin
C13 whannes, adverbial genitive of Old English hwanon; related to Old Frisian hwana, Old High German hwanan
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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Word Origin and History for whence

c.1300, whennes, with adverbial genitive -s, from Old English hwanone, related to hwænne (see when).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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