Question for grammarians - whence or from whence?

Merriam-Webster online says that “whence” can mean “from where”.

Over in another thread, I meant to ask someone “From where are you posting?”

So I said “Whence are you posting?”
Should that be “From whence are you posting?”

I’m hoping it’s the former, because that sounds more formal and stilted, and I like sentences that make you think “there’s something wrong there”, even though the sentences is grammatically correct.

Just whence.

English had a set of words for “from x” as well as “to x”.

From where = whence
From here = hence
From there = thence

However most people use “from whence” and it is understod so there’s no problem using it. Except you don’t get the effect you want.

The -ither words are the “to x” set IIRC from Semantics last semester. seems to indicate that both are correct.

From The American Heritage® Book of English Usage (1996), the first source in the above link:

I was just going to say that it was redundant but not wrong.

I see that description would apply to myself as well. :slight_smile:

“From whence” is simply wrong, based on etymology, and always sets my teeth on edge when I read it.

Linguistically I tend to be more of the descriptionist rather than prescriptionist persuasion, so ordinarily I might be tempted go along with American Heritage’s contention that a phrase that has been used wrongly for such a long time and so persistently has acquired some standing. However, since the main point of using a word like “whence” in the first place is to sound pedantic, I would say you can’t go wrong correcting anyone who says “from whence,” preferably in as condescending a tone as possible.

Hither, thither, and whither–three of my favorite words in the language.

Somebody saying “from whence” is likely to be learning an appreciation for Elizabethan English. So we ought to be encouraging.

100 years ago, people might have used “from whence” in affectation of culture. In that case, why bother confronting them? (They ARE dead.) They’d just shift their affectations elsewhere, imagining they were under scrutiny.

I feel American Heritage is wrong on this, and in this small sense so are the descriptivists. Saying “Sahara Desert” demonstrates the speaker’s ignorance to millions of Africans. I think the dictionary missed a beat, here. I’d prefer not to say anything that appeared laughable and insensitive to an entire continent.

Unless, of course…

Are you calling me a pedant? Come hither and repeat that! :slight_smile:
Ok, whence, hence, thence, whither, hither, thither are now going to be part of my regular SDMB vocabulary.

By coincidence, I checked out this very issue yesterday and came up with the same answer as Kamandi and the others: it’s a tad redundant, but no big deal. I prefer whence but if someone uses from whence I’m probably not going to whine at him. Unless I feel like it. :stuck_out_tongue:

What about yon?

BTW, weren’t the smilies formerly all yellow, or have I just been blind to their colors all this time?

Somebody shouldda told John Cougar Melencamp about this issue . . .


Though I cannot forget from whence it is that I come from . . .

Yep, that too–even thought about bringing it up, but you beat me to it.

Come now, Arnold! You say that like being a pedant was a bad thing! :smiley:

You should check out ATMB once in a while. There’s some good information yon.

The great smiley changeover!

Can we get a ruling on an Administrator contributing to the hijack of his own thread?

Acceptable, or should he be flogged with a dead carp?


Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1913

(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?


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

    Grateful to acknowledge whence his good


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

 O, how unlike the place from whence they fell?


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.

Of whence, also a pleonasm, has become obsolete.

I don’t think dictionaries should quote the Bible, or any other work not in it’s original language. Seems quite contrary to the purpose of producing really illustrative examples. Any word that’s translated is a at best a close approximation of its full connotation in the original language.

The King James Bible stands on its own as a tremendously influential work of literature, and also as an example of usage during the period in which it was written. Thus it is an extremely good work for dictionaries to cite when trying to identify how and when words and phrases were used. That it was never intended to be a strictly literal translation has nothing to do with its use by dictionaries.

I also think of the wherefore/herefore/therefore series in this connection. Herefore is obsolete, but the relation still holds: for what reason/for this reason/for that reason. It’s useful for explaining to people that wherefore does NOT mean where, darn it.

Of course the most common example of the misunderstanding of “Wherefore art thou Romeo,” in Juliet’s balcony speech. Most people assume it means “Where are you, Romeo?” when it actually means “Why are you Romeo?”

So because good writers have misused a word in the past, that “authorizes” its misuse in the future? :confused: (“Pleonasm” simply being a pedantic term for “redundant.”

Sure. That’s one way languages evolve. The misuse of a word may become so popular that it supplants its proper use. (Geez, what a clumsy sentence to put in a thread about language. :o )