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Etymology 1[edit]

The adjective and noun are derived from Middle English truant, truand, truaund ((adjective) idle; tending to vagrancy (uncertain; may be a use of the noun); (noun) beggar; mendicant friar; vagrant, wanderer; worthless person, rogue, scoundrel; one who is absent without leave, truant; one who shirks duties),[1] from Old French truant, truand ((adjective) beggarly; roguish; (noun) a beggar, vagabond; a rogue) (modern French truand), probably of Celtic origin,[2] possibly from Gaulish *trugan, or from Breton truan (wretched), from Proto-Celtic *térh₁-tro-m, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *terh₁- (to drill, pierce; to rub; to turn).[3]


truant (not comparable)

  1. Shirking or wandering from business or duty; straying; hence, idle; loitering.
    • c. 1599–1602 (date written), William Shakespeare, The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke: [] (Second Quarto), London: [] I[ames] R[oberts] for N[icholas] L[ing] [], published 1604, →OCLC, [Act I, scene ii], signature C, verso:
      Ham[let]. And vvhat in faith make you from VVittenberg? / Hora[tio]. A truant diſpoſition good my Lord.
    • 1649, J[ohn] Milton, “Upon the Ordinance against the Common-prayer Book”, in ΕΙΚΟΝΟΚΛΆΣΤΗΣ [Eikonoklástēs] [], London: [] Matthew Simmons, [], →OCLC, page 152:
      [W]ee are not to imitate them; nor to diſtruſt God in the removal of that Truant help to our Devotion, vvhich by him never vvas appointed.
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Third Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 117, lines 705–710:
      But vvhere thou ſeeſt a ſingle Sheep remain / In ſhades aloof, or couch'd upon the Plain; / Or liſtleſly to crop the tender Graſs; / Or late to lag behind, vvith truant pace; / Revenge the Crime; and take the Traytor's head, / E're in the faultleſs Flock the dire Contagion ſpread.
    • 1772, John Trumbull, “The Owl and the Sparrow. A Fable.”, in The Poetical Works of John Trumbull, [], volume II, Hartford, Conn.: [] Samuel G[riswold] Goodrich, by Lincoln & Stone, published 1820, →OCLC, page 149:
      In elder days, in Saturn's prime, / Ere baldness seized the head of Time, / While truant Jove, in infant pride, / Play'd barefoot on Olympus' side, / Each thing on earth had power to chatter, / And spoke the mother tongue of nature.
    • 1785, William Cowper, “Book I. The Sofa.”, in The Task, a Poem, [], London: [] J[oseph] Johnson;  [], →OCLC, page 7:
      [I] have loved the rural vvalk / O'er hills, through valleys, and by rivers brink, / E'er ſince a truant boy I paſs'd my bounds / T'enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames.
    • 1791, [Erasmus Darwin], “Canto I”, in The Botanic Garden; a Poem, in Two Parts. [], London: J[oseph] Johnson, [], →OCLC, part I (The Economy of Vegetation), page 4, lines 53–54:
      Dovvn the ſteep ſlopes He led vvith modeſt ſkill / The vvilling pathvvay, and the truant rill, []
    • 1791–1792 (published 1793), William Wordsworth, “Descriptive Sketches, Taken during a Pedestrian Tour among the Alps”, in Henry [Hope] Reed, editor, The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Philadelphia, Pa.: Hayes & Zell, [], published 1860, →OCLC, page 30, column 1:
      Me, lured by hope its sorrows to remove, / A heart that could not much itself approve / O'er Gallia's wastes of corn dejected led, / Her road elms rustling high above my head, / Or through her truant pathways' native charms, / By secret villages and lonely farms, []
    • 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, “Prodigal’s Return”, in The History of Pendennis. [], volume I, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849, →OCLC, page 205:
      Indeed, calamity is welcome to women if they think it will bring truant affection home again: and if you have reduced your mistress to a crust, depend upon it that she won't repine, and only take a very little bit of it for herself, provided you will eat the remainder in her company.
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, “A Lady in Company”, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC, page 6:
      Serene, smiling, enigmatic, she faced him with no fear whatever showing in her dark eyes. [] She put back a truant curl from her forehead where it had sought egress to the world, and looked him full in the face now, drawing a deep breath which caused the round of her bosom to lift the lace at her throat.
  2. (specifically) Of a student: absent from school without permission.
    He didn’t graduate because he was chronically truant and didn’t have enough attendances to meet the requirement.
  3. (obsolete) Having no real substance; unimportant, vain, worthless.
Derived terms[edit]


truant (plural truants)

  1. An idle or lazy person; an idler.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:idler
  2. (specifically) A student who is absent from school without permission; hence (figurative), a person who shirks or wanders from business or duty.
  3. (obsolete) Synonym of sturdy beggar (a person who was fit and able to work, but lived as a beggar or vagrant instead); hence, a worthless person; a rogue, a scoundrel.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:vagabond, Thesaurus:worthless person
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English truaunten (to obtain alms fraudulently; to behave like a rogue or scoundrel; to neglect a duty; to be idle or lazy),[4] and then partly:


truant (third-person singular simple present truants, present participle truanting, simple past and past participle truanted)

  1. (intransitive) Also used with the impersonal pronoun it (dated): to shirk or wander from business or duty; (specifically) of a student: to be absent from school without permission; to play truant.
    The number of schoolchildren known to have truanted from this school has been unusually high.
  2. (transitive, obsolete) To idle away or waste (time).
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ ?truaunt, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007; “truaunt, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ truant, n. and adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2023; truant, n. and adj.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ Roberts, Edward A. (2014) A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Spanish Language with Families of Words based on Indo-European Roots, Xlibris Corporation, →ISBN
  4. ^ truaunten, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  5. ^ -en, suf.(3)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  6. ^ Compare truant, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023.

Further reading[edit]