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From wit +‎ wanton


witwanton (plural witwantons)

  1. (archaic) One who indulges in idle, foolish, and irreverent fancies or speculations; one who tries to be cleverly amusing but falls short.
    • 1613, Josuah Sylvester, Lachrymae Lachrymarum:
      All epicures, witwantons, atheists.
    • 1655, Thomas Fuller, “4, A.D. 1611--1619”, in The Church History of Britain from the Birth of Jesus Christ until the Year MDCXLVIII, Book 10[1]:
      And how dangerous it is for wit-wanton men to dance with their nice distinctions, on such mystical precipices, where slips in jest may cause deadly downfalls in earnest, …
    • 1855, Thomas Carlyle, Fraser's magazine, Volume 52[2], Digitized edition, published 2005, page 345:
      Word-warriors and wit-wantons would waste their breath upon one whose book-hunger has won him so rich a meed, ...
    • 1986, David Grambs, Dimboxes, epopts, and other quidams:
      The witwanton is always a little off in trying to be always GETTING MENTAL.
    • 2003, Robert M. Jarvis, Amicus Humoriae: An Anthology of Legal Humor[3], Carolina Academic Press, →ISBN, page 97:
      WITWANTON: One who tries to be cleverly amusing, but misses the mark.


witwanton (third-person singular simple present witwantons, present participle witwantoning, simple past and past participle witwantoned)

  1. (archaic) To indulge in vain, sportive, or irreverent wit; speculate idly or irreverently.
    • 1834, William Chambers, Robert Chambers, Chambers's Edinburgh Journal[4], Digitized edition, W. Orr, published 2007, page 32:
      … a citizen in Cheapside was executed as a traitor for saying he would make his son heir to the crown, though he only meant his own house, having a crown for the sign, more dangerous it is to wit-wanton it with the Majesty of God.
    • 1839, Rober Southey, The poetical works of Robert Southey[5], Digitized edition, D. Appleton, published 2008, page 88:
      Wit-wanton it with lewd barbarity, …
    • 1922, James Joyce, Ulysses[6], HTML edition, The Gutenberg Project, published 2008:
      And Master Lynch bade him have a care to flout and witwanton as the god self was angered for his hellprate and paganry.
    • 1922, E. R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros[7], The Project Gutenberg, Australia:
      Nor I will not suffer mine indignation so to witwanton with fair justice as persuade me to put the wite on Witchland.


  • Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
  • Chambers Dictionary, 1998