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[wit-n, -ahn] /ˈwɪt n, -ɑn/
noun, Early English History
the members of the national council or witenagemot.
(used with a singular verb) the witenagemot.
Origin of witan
1800-10; Modern English < Old English, plural of wita one who knows, councilor; akin to wit2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for witan
Historical Examples
  • Nay, you have more, for you are the formal choice of the witan.

    The Ward of King Canute Ottilie A. Liljencrantz
  • But it was absolutely necessary to prove them before the witan 293.

    Harold, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Ecgfrith and his witan had banished Wilfrith, Archbishop of York, from his see.

  • He, too, first took refuge in the Weald when deposed by his witan.

  • So there the matter ended, and that was the last sitting of the witan.

    Havelok The Dane Charles Whistler
  • Then they too yielded, and the witan of all England took Swegen as their king.

    A History of England Charles Oman
  • The members of the witan remained in attendance near the palace, hoping for some guidance from the dying king.

    Wulf the Saxon G. A. Henty
  • That she had come upon them so far from The witan was evidence of this.

    Gray youth Oliver Onions
  • He also had crown lands, which belonged to his office and could not be alienated without consent of the witan.

  • But she had come here expressly to avoid going back to The witan.

    Gray youth Oliver Onions
British Dictionary definitions for witan


noun (in Anglo-Saxon England)
an assembly of higher ecclesiastics and important laymen, including king's thegns, that met to counsel the king on matters such as judicial problems
the members of this assembly
Also witenagemot
Word Origin
Old English witan, plural of wita wise man; see wit², witness
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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