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From Middle English whennes, from Old English hwanone (with adverbial genitive -s), related to hwænne.


whence ‎(not comparable)

  1. (archaic, formal or literary) From where; from which place or source.
    Whence came I?
    "Pork" comes from French, whence we get most of our modern cooking terms.
    • 1611, King James BibleWikisource, John 8:14:
      Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.
    • 1818, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Chapter 4:
      Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed?
    • 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Sea-chest”, in Treasure IslandWikisource:
      [W]hat greatly encouraged me, it was in an opposite direction from that whence the blind man had made his appearance and whither he had presumably returned.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet, Chapter 3:
      At first I could not tell what this new sound was, nor whence it came, and now it seemed a little noise close by, and now a great noise in the distance. And then it grew nearer and more defined, and in a moment I knew it was the sound of voices talking.

Usage notes[edit]

  • This word is uncommon in modern usage; from where is now usually substituted (as in the example sentence: Where did I come from? or From where did I come?). It is now chiefly encountered in older works, or in poetic or literary writing.
  • From whence has a strong literary precedent, appearing in Shakespeare and the King James Bible as well as in the writings of numerous Victorian-era writers. In recent times, however, it has been criticized as redundant by usage commentators.

Derived terms[edit]




  1. (literary, poetic) used for introducing the result of a fact that has just been stated
    The work is slow and dangerous, whence the high costs.
    I scored more than you in the exam, whence we can conclude that I am better at the subject than you are.


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Related terms[edit]