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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Whence \Whence\, adv. [OE. whennes, whens (with adverbial s, properly a genitive ending; -- see -wards), also whenne, whanene, AS. hwanan, hwanon, hwonan, hwanone; akin to D. when. See When, and cf. Hence, Thence.]

  1. From what place; hence, from what or which source, origin, antecedent, premise, or the like; how; -- used interrogatively.

    Whence hath this man this wisdom?
    --Matt. xiii. 54.

    Whence and what art thou?

  2. From what or which place, source, material, cause, etc.; the place, source, etc., from which; -- used relatively.

    Grateful to acknowledge whence his good Descends.

    Note: All the words of this class, whence, where, whither, whereabouts, etc., are occasionally used as pronouns by a harsh construction.

    O, how unlike the place from whence they fell?

    Note: From whence, though a pleonasm, is fully authorized by the use of good writers.

    From whence come wars and fightings among you?
    --James iv. 1. [1913 Webster] Of whence, also a pleonasm, has become obsolete.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

early 13c., whennes, with adverbial genitive -s, from Old English hwanone, related to hwænne (see when). Spelling with -ce (1520s) reflects the voiceless pronunciation.


adv. From where; from which place or source. conj. (context literary poetic English) (non-gloss definition: used for introducing the result of a fact that has just been stated)


adv. from what place or origin or source; "whence did he come?"; "whence comes this splendid feast?"; "sketches the lawless society whence the ballads sprang"-DeLancey Ferguson [syn: wherefrom]

Usage examples of "whence".

Then all the satisfaction she had derived from what she had heard Madame Bourdieu say departed, and she went off furious and ashamed, as if soiled and threatened by all the vague abominations which she had for some time felt around her, without knowing, however, whence came the little chill which made her shudder as with dread.

The city was accessible only by a narrow peninsula towards the west, as the other three sides were surrounded by the Adige, a rapid river, which covered the province of Venetia, from whence the besieged derived an inexhaustible supply of men and provisions.

In accordance with Beklan custom some of the guests, in twos and threes, were beginning to get up and stroll out of the hall, either into the corridors or as far as the westward-facing portico of the palace, whence they could look out across the city walls towards the afterglow beyond the far-off Palteshi hills.

The communication revolution, seen by sociologists like Baudrillard to be the key constitutive feature of our age, has aggrandized the media to the point where signs have displaced their referents, where images of the Real have usurped the authority of the Real, whence the subject is engulfed by simulacra.

Atheism, materialism and agnosticism are an old, old trinity, but they had up to our own time been at the mercy of more positive attitudes through their inability to really answer those insurgent questions: Whence?

All the house above was still and dark, and he could barely make out by the starlight the piece of white marble bearing the sculptured Agnus Dei whence the house takes its name.

And when you gain the distant shore of Alba, give it to Drustan mab Necthana, that he might know from whence it came.

If this son of Freyr had arrived from otherwhere, then it followed that he came from Freyr, whence, in ancipital eyes, all evil came.

With several voice, with ascription one, The woods and the marsh and the sea and my soul Unto thee, whence the glittering stream of all morrows doth roll, Cry good and past-good and most heavenly morrow, lord Sun.

In September, General Sheridan, with a force of about forty-five thousand, had assailed General Early near Winchester, with a force of about eight or nine thousand muskets, and succeeded in driving him up the Valley beyond Strasburg, whence, attacked a second time, he had retreated toward Staunton.

Up, still up, until we reached the chamber where had dwelt Simbri the Shaman, that same chamber whence he was wont to watch his stars, in which Atene had threatened us with death.

It is that when another king follows another Queen of Egypt up the pyramid whence this one fell, whichever it may have been, and there wins her love, the avenging spirit of her who threw herself thence will find rest and no more bring destruction upon men.

The churchyard at Ashford, and the stone cross, from whence diverged the several roads to London, Canterbury, and Ashford, situated midway between the two latter places, served, so tradition avouched, as nocturnal theatres for the unhallowed deeds of the Wulfrics, who thither prowled by moonlight, it was said, to batten on the freshly-buried dead, or drain the blood of any living wight who might be rash enough to venture among those solitary spots.

Berlinton, and without mentioning she had seen whence the paper came, said she had found it upon the stairs: for even those who have too little delicacy to attribute to treachery a clandestine indulgence of curiosity, have a certain instinctive sense of its unfairness, which they evince without avowing, by the care with which they soften their motives, or their manner, of according themselves this species of gratification.

We correct the phrase, which should read thus: In the year 1512 they departed from Banda toward Malacca, and on the baxos or flats of Lucapinho Francis Serrano was wrecked with his junk, from whence he escaped unto the Isle of Amboina with nine or ten Portugals which were with him, and the Kings of Maluco sent for them.