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See also: Arrant



A variant of errant,[1] from Middle English erraunt [and other forms],[2] from Anglo-Norman erraunt, from Old French errant, the present participle of errer (to walk (to); to wander (to); (figuratively) to travel, voyage), and then:[3]

The original sense was sense 3 (roving around, wandering). Due to the word being used to describe disreputable persons who wandered about (for example, arrant knave and arrant thief), it came to be used as an intensifier (sense 1: “complete; downright; utter”) and to have a negative meaning (sense 2: “very bad; despicable”).[1]



arrant (comparative more arrant or arranter, superlative most arrant or arrantest)

  1. (chiefly with a negative connotation, dated) Complete; downright; utter.
    Synonyms: out-and-out, unmitigated; see also Thesaurus:total
    an arrant knave    arrant nonsense
    • 1569, Richard Grafton, “Richarde the Seconde”, in A Chronicle at Large, and Meere History of the Affayres of Englande, [], London: [] Henry Denham, [], for Richarde Tottle and Humffrey Toye, →OCLC; republished in Grafton’s Chronicle; or, History of England. [], volume I, London: [] [George Woodfall] for J[oseph] Johnson;  [], 1809, →OCLC, page 434:
      And if any manner of person attempted to moue the King to infringe any parte of thys ordynaunce, and that being knowne, for the first time, he should be depriued of his goodes and possessions, and for the second time, to be drawen thorough the Citie, and so put to execution as an arrant traytor.
    • c. 1599–1602 (date written), William Shake-speare, The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke: [] (First Quarto), London: [] [Valentine Simmes] for N[icholas] L[ing] and Iohn Trundell, published 1603, →OCLC, [Act III, scene i]:
      To a Nunnery goe, vve are arrant knaues all, / Beleeue none of vs, to a Nunnery goe.
    • 1605, Michael Drayton, “The Legend of Robert, Duke of Normandy”, in Poems: [], London: [] Willi[am] Stansby for Iohn Smethwicke, published 1630, →OCLC, page 355:
      She bags of Gold out of her boſome drevv, / VVhich ſhe to Sots and arrant Ideots threvv.
    • 1638, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Symptomes of Iealousie, Fear, Sorrow, Suspition, Strange Actions, Gestures, Outrages, Locking Up, Oathes, Trials, Lawes, &c.”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy. [], 5th edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed [by Robert Young, Miles Flesher, and Leonard Lichfield and William Turner] for Henry Cripps, →OCLC, partition 3, section 3, member 2, subsection 1, page 610:
      He cals her on a ſudden, all to naught; ſhe is a ſtrumpet, a light huswife, a bitch, an arrant whore.
    • 1644, John Milton, Areopagitica; a Speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England, London: [s.n.], →OCLC, page 26:
      There be, vvho knovvs not that there be of Proteſtants and profeſſors vvho live and dye in as arrant an implicit faith, as any lay Papiſt of Loretto.
      Used without a negative connotation.
    • 1660, H[enry] More, chapter XIII, in An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness; [], London: [] J[ames] Flesher, for W[illiam] Morden [], →OCLC, book I, pages 167–168:
      VVherefore vvhoſoever interprets the Nevv Teſtament ſo as to ſhuffle off the aſſurance of Revvard and Puniſhment after the death of the Body, is either an arrant Infidel or horrid Blaſphemer.
    • 1664, J[ohn] E[velyn], “. Chapter XXX. Of Timber the Seasoning and Uses, and of Fuel.”, in Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-trees and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesties Dominions. [], London: [] Jo[hn] Martyn, and Ja[mes] Allestry, printers to the Royal Society, [], →OCLC, page 95:
      [] I both ſavv and diligently examin'd that piece (Plank, stone, or both ſhall I name it) of Lignum foſſile [fossilized wood] taken out of a certain Quarry thereof at Aqua Sparta not far from Rome, [] [H]e that ſhall behold its grain, ſo exquisitely undulated, and varied, together vvith its colour, manner of hevving, chips, and other moſt perfect reſemblances, vvill never ſcruple to pronounce it arrant vvood.
      Used without a negative connotation.
    • 1708, Thomas Bennet, “That the Primitive Christians in the Fourth Century, Join’d in the Use of Diverse Precompos’d Set Forms of Prayer, besides the Lord’s Prayer and Psalms, Prov’d from St. Epiphanius”, in A Brief History of the Joint Use of Precompos’d Set Forms of Prayer; [], 2nd edition, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Printed at the University, for Edmund Jeffery, []; and to be sold by James Knapton [], →OCLC, page 187:
      And is not this Arrant nonſenſe? VVhat could he mean by ſuch ſtuff? Or could any Man in his VVits vvrite it?
    • 1724 May 1 (date written; Gregorian calendar), Jonathan Swift, “The Blunders, Deficiencies, Distresses, and Misfortunes of Quilca. []”, in Thomas Sheridan and John Nichols, editors, The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, [], new edition, volume VIII, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson, [], published 1801, →OCLC, page 384:
      Every servant an arrant thief as to victuals and drink, and every comer and goer as errant a thief of every thing he or she can lay their hands on.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, “In which the Surgeon Makes His Second Appearance”, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, volume III, London: A[ndrew] Millar, [], →OCLC, book VIII, page 164:
      He is an arrant Scrub, I aſſure you.
    • 1751, [Alain-René Lesage], “The Sequel of the Ring Retrieved. Gil Blas Quits the Profession of Physic, and Makes His Retreat from Valladolid.”, in [Tobias George Smollett], transl., The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane. [], 3rd edition, volume I, London: [] J. Osborn, [], →OCLC, book II, page 132:
      Such as I have deſcribed Don Rodrigo, who, notvvithſtanding the Don he had prefixed to his name, vvas an arrant raſcal, he captivated the miſtreſs of the tennis-court, vvho vvas a vvoman about forty years of age, rich and agreeable enough, and in the fifteenth month of her vvidovvhood.
    • 1820 January 1, Geoffrey Crayon [pseudonym; Washington Irving], “Christmas Eve”, in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., number V, New York, N.Y.: [] C. S. Van Winkle, [], →OCLC, page 385:
      He was a tight brisk little man, with the air of an arrant old Bachelor.
      Used without a negative connotation.
    • 1824, Geoffrey Crayon [pseudonym; Washington Irving], “Buckthorne, or The Young Man of Great Expectations”, in Tales of a Traveller, part 2 (Buckthorne and His Friends), Philadelphia, Pa.: H[enry] C[harles] Carey & I[saac] Lea, [], →OCLC, page 99:
      Nothing, I am convinced, but the poetical temperament, that hurried me into the scrape, brought me out of it without my becoming an arrant vagabond.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “The Spouter-Inn” and “The Deck”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, pages 16 and 581:
      [page 16] The liquor soon mounted into their heads, as it generally does even with the arrantest topers newly landed from sea, and they began capering about most obstreperously. [] [page 581] Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling, monopolizing, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of those same coffins?
    • 1908, Walter F[rederic] Adeney, “Cyril Lucar and the Reformation”, in Charles A[ugustus] Briggs, Stewart D[ingwall] F[ordyce] Salmond, editors, The Greek and Eastern Churches (The International Theological Library), New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, →OCLC, division II (The Modern Greek Church), page 319:
      Cyril [Lucaris] then sent the document to Geneva, where the confession was printed in a Latin version. The publication of it created a sensation in Europe. Here was the first ecclesiastic in the Greek Church professing the most thorough-going Protestant tenets, even echoing arrant Calvinism!
    • 1999 October 9, “Ring in the new”, in The Economist[1], →ISSN, →OCLC, page 21:
      Do teenagers want cellphones because they are all arrant individualists, or is this just another example of conformity induced by mass marketing?
  2. (by extension, dated) Very bad; despicable.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:bad, Thesaurus:evil
    Antonyms: see Thesaurus:good
    • 1593, Gabriel Harvey, Pierces Supererogation: Or A New Prayse of the Old Asse, London: [] Iohn Wolfe, →OCLC; republished as John Payne Collier, editor, Pierces Supererogation: Or A New Prayse of the Old Asse. A Preparative to Certaine Larger Discourses, Intituled Nashes S. Fame (Miscellaneous Tracts. Temp. Eliz. & Jac. I; no. 8), [London: [s.n.], 1870], →OCLC, page 9:
      [W]ho ſo forward to accuſe, to debaſe, to revile, to crow-treade an other as the arranteſt fellow in a country?
    • 1676 December 11 (first performance), [William] Wycherley, The Plain-Dealer. A Comedy. [], London: [] T[homas] N[ewcomb] for James Magnes and Rich[ard] Bentley [], published 1677, →OCLC, Act III, page 46:
      The truth on't is, mine's as arrant a VVidow-Mother, to her poor Child, as any's in Engand: She vvo'nt ſo much as let one have ſix-pence in one's Pocket, to ſee a Motion, or the Dancing of the Ropes, or—
  3. Obsolete form of errant (roving around; wandering).
    • 1586, William Warner, “Albion’s England”, in The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper; [], volume IV, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson [et al.], published 1810, →OCLC, book VIII, chapter XLVI, page 610:
      Hence arrant preachers, humming out / A common-place or two, []

Usage notes[edit]

Although arrant is a variant of errant, their modern meanings have diverged. Arrant is used in the sense “complete; downright; utter” (for example, “arrant knaves”), while errant means “roving around; wandering” and is often used after the noun it modifies (for example, “knight errant”). The use of errant to mean “complete; downright; utter”, and arrant to mean “roving around; wandering”, is obsolete.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • errant (complete; downright, utter) (obsolete)



  1. 1.0 1.1 arrant, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; arrant, adj.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ erraunt, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ errant, adj. (and n.)”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022; errant, adj.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]