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See also: Arrant


Alternative forms[edit]


Alteration of errant. Originally meaning wandering, the term came to be an intensifier due to its use as an epithet, e.g. in the phrases arrant thieves and arrant knaves (i.e., “wandering bandits”).[1]



arrant (comparative arranter, superlative arrantest)

  1. Utter; complete (with a negative sense).
    arrant nonsense! [1708][2]
    • 1621, 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, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069; The Anatomy of Melancholy. [], 5th corrected and augmented edition, Oxford: Printed [by Robert Young, Miles Flesher, and Leonard Lichfield and William Turner] for Henry Cripps, 1638, OCLC 932915040, 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.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, “In which the Surgeon Makes His Second Appearance”, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. In Six Volumes, volume III, London: Printed by A[ndrew] Millar, [], OCLC 928184292, book VIII, page 164:
      He is an arrant Scrub, I aſſure you.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “The Spouter-Inn”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, OCLC 57395299, 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.
    • 1908, Walter Frederic Adeney, The Greek and Eastern churches, page 319:
      Here was the first ecclesiastic in the Greek Church professing the most thorough-going Protestant tenets, even echoing arrant Calvinism!
  2. Obsolete form of errant.

Usage notes[edit]

Particularly used in the phrase “arrant knaves”, quoting Hamlet, and “arrant nonsense”.[3]

Some dictionaries consider arrant simply an alternative form of errant, but in usage they have long since split.

The word has long been considered archaic, may be confused with errant, and is used primarily in clichés, on which basis some recommend against using it.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


  1. ^ OED
  2. ^ Thomas Bennet, A Brief History of the Joint Use of Recompos'd Set Forms of wich is annexed a Discourse of the Gost of Prayer], p. 187
  3. ^ Safire, 2006, considers “arrant nonsense” to be “wedded words”, a form of a fixed phrase.