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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English whilom ((adverb) at one time, formerly, once; once upon a time; at times, sometimes; at a future time; (conjunction) while) [and other forms],[1] from Old English hwīlum, hwīlan, hwīlon (at one time, once; sometimes), from Proto-West Germanic *hwīlum, the dative plural of *hwīlu (period of time, time, while; period of rest, pause),[2] from Proto-Germanic *hwīlō (period of time, time, while; period of rest, pause), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷyeh₁- (to rest; peace, rest).

The Oxford English Dictionary regards adverb sense 2.2 (“for some time that has passed”) as “aberrant”.[2]



whilom (not comparable)

  1. (archaic except literary) At some time in the past; formerly, once upon a time.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:formerly
  2. (obsolete)
    1. At times, on occasion, sometimes.
      Synonyms: see Thesaurus:occasionally
    2. (rare) Preceded by of or this: for some time that has passed.



whilom (not comparable)

  1. (archaic except literary) At some time in the past; former, sometime.
    Synonyms: erstwhile, quondam; see also Thesaurus:former
    • 1837, Thomas Carlyle, “Death”, in The French Revolution: A History [], volume III (The Guillotine), London: James Fraser, [], →OCLC, book V (Terror the Order of the Day), page 290:
      On the same day, two notable Female Prisoners are also put in ward there: Dame Dubarry and Josephine Beauharnais! Dame whilom Countess Dubarry, Unfortunate-female, had returned from London; they snatched her, not only as Ex-harlot of a whilom Majesty, and therefore suspect; but as having 'furnished the Emigrants with money.'
    • 1879, J[ohn] P[entland] Mahaffy, “His Plots”, in John Richard Green, editor, Euripides (Classical Writers), London: Macmillan and Co., →OCLC, paragraph 43, page 60:
      The play must have appeared during the closing years of the Peloponnesian war, and must have been fresh in men's memory, when, as Plutarch tells us (Life of Lysander, c. 15), the deliberations about the fate of conquered Athens were determined by a Phocian actor singing the opening monody, which moved all to pity by its picture of a whilom princess reduced to miserable poverty.
    • 1909, Henry James, “Mora Montravers. Chapter V.”, in The Finer Grain, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, published October 1910, →OCLC, page 99:
      [S]he was expecting to be joined there by no such pale fellow-adventurer as her whilom uncle.
  2. (obsolete) Of a person: deceased, late.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:dead



whilom (archaic except Britain, dialectal and literary)

  1. During the same time that; while.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:while
    • 1647, Theodore de la Guard [pseudonym; Nathaniel Ward], The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America. [], London: [] J[ohn] D[ever] & R[obert] I[bbitson] for Stephen Bowtell, [], →OCLC, page 77:
      Subjects their King, the King his Subjects greets, / VVhilome the Scepter and the Plough-ſtaffe meets.
  2. Up to the time that; till, until.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:until



  1. ^ whīlom, adv.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Compare “whilom, adv. (and adj.) and conj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022; “whilom, adv. and adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.