Definition of whence in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /wɛns/
(also from whence) formal or archaic

interrogative adverb

From what place or source: whence does Parliament derive this power?
More example sentences
  • Control is understood as one's being the source whence her actions emanate.
  • He can dismiss the question of whence the Holiness Code derives its use of purity language in relation to sins that are not, in and of themselves, violations of literal, physical purity.
  • First and foremost, one must ask whence this ‘right’ derives.

relative adverb

1From which; from where: the Ural mountains, whence the ore is procured
1.1To the place from which: he will be sent back whence he came
More example sentences
  • His father Eric came from Breslau, but as a young man escaped to Paris, whence he was sent to London in 1900 by a theatrical agency to run its London branch.
  • Four straight defeats, coupled with Queen of the South's defeat against Forfar in midweek, sent them back to whence they came.
  • Why had he been sent to Somerset, whence he had escaped and taken refuge in the station?
1.2As a consequence of which: whence it followed that the strategies were obsolete
More example sentences
  • At first, it was stipulated that S knew, whence it followed that S was properly ignoring all possibilities of error.
  • It is evident by now how the values of a therapeutic culture surrounding us have affected our own views, and, therefore, whence the dread and fear of our own aging and general discomfort level with its attendant issues arises.
  • In the indeterminate fluxations of a cosmos in which ‘things happen’ and it is futile to ask about whence or wherefore, he accepted responsibility for nothing except the poem he aspired to be.


Strictly speaking, whence means ‘from what place’, as in whence did you come? Thus, the preposition from in from whence did you come? is redundant, and its use is considered incorrect by some. The use with from is very common, though, and has been used by reputable writers since the 14th century. It is now broadly accepted in standard English.


Middle English whennes, from earlier whenne (from Old English hwanon, of Germanic origin) + -s3 (later respelled -ce to denote the unvoiced sound).

Words that rhyme with whence

cense, commence, common sense, condense, dense, dispense, expense, fence, hence, Hortense, immense, offence (US offense), pence, prepense, pretence (US pretense), sense, spence, suspense, tense, thence

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: whence

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.