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whence

[hwens, wens] /ʰwɛns, wɛns/
adverb
1.
from what place?:
Whence comest thou?
2.
from what source, origin, or cause?:
Whence has he wisdom?
conjunction
3.
from what place, source, cause, etc.:
He told whence he came.
Origin of whence
1250-1300
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.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for whence
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And, if so, whence proceeds this belief that fairy-folk are necessarily malign?

  • Knock at the door, whence the sable line of the funeral is next to issue!

    Main Street Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • whence had come that peculiar brightness of complexion which would have charmed him had it not frightened him?

    Marion Fay Anthony Trollope
  • We still stood by the open door, whence we had watched the carriage disappear.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • The old name for a gun of large calibre used in the French navy, whence the term was adopted into ours.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
British Dictionary definitions for whence

whence

/wɛns/
adverb
1.
from what place, cause, or origin?
pronoun
2.
(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
adv.

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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14
15
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