Definition of whence in English:

whence

(also from whence)

interrogative adverb

formal, Archaic
  • From what place or source.

    ‘whence does Parliament derive this power?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Control is understood as one's being the source whence her actions emanate.’
    • ‘First and foremost, one must ask whence this ‘right’ derives.’

relative adverb

formal, Archaic
  • 1From which; from where.

    ‘the Ural mountains, whence the ore is procured’
    1. 1.1To the place from which.
      ‘he will be sent back whence he came’
      • ‘But then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest - upon Whose message thou are sent?’
      • ‘I've just parcelled my first bit of ripped up junkmail back in its prepaid envelope and sent it back from whence it came.’
      • ‘In 1848, however, the abdicating French King claimed the collection as his personal property, and the young Second Republic obliged, sending it after him to England, whence it was dispersed.’
      • ‘Why had he been sent to Somerset, whence he had escaped and taken refuge in the station?’
      • ‘Deep, painful decisions for President Wilson in World War I to send Americans back from whence they had the chaos, from whence they had escaped.’
      • ‘If he realized that she knew that he was an escaped convict, then he might assume that she would be only too eager to send him back from whence he came.’
      • ‘Normally you can stop them in time and whatever has come up can be sent back down from whence it came but this time I just couldn't do it and out went this little puddle of puke straight into Stinking Pete's pint.’
      • ‘The Ghost of Christmas Passed came calling today, sending pinecones packing and stockings slinking into the Rubbermaid bins from whence they came.’
      • ‘Concerned to limit the smothering, Fritz sent the boy off to the barracks, whence he emerged a martinet much given to fancy uniforms, which he would change as often as 10 times a day.’
      • ‘Four straight defeats, coupled with Queen of the South's defeat against Forfar in midweek, sent them back to whence they came.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We live in a strange time and place where a minister of the government believes that he is doing his job by rounding up the poorest of the poor and sending them back to the hellhole from whence they sprang.’
      • ‘I'd leave him in that box and let him ride around in the UPS truck til they send him back from whence he came.’
      • ‘If they misbehave, they're sent back from whence they came.’
      • ‘He was taken from his mother and sent to a Church of England boys' home whence he was adopted by a white family who loved him dearly.’
    2. 1.2As a consequence of which.
      ‘whence it followed that the strategies were obsolete’
      • ‘A law found by measurement is necessarily mathematical in form, whence its manipulation by proportionalities will reveal consequences no less certain to be borne out by measurement.’
      • ‘Not a single plane was ready to take off on that night from Smorodino airfield, whence 45-mm guns were due to follow after the landing force.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘At first, it was stipulated that S knew, whence it followed that S was properly ignoring all possibilities of error.’
      • ‘Now it is on all hands agreed, that nothing abstract or general can be made really to exist, whence it should seem to follow, that it cannot have so much as an ideal existence in the understanding.’
      • ‘The judgment of the Court is, that you be taken hence to the jail from whence you came, thence to the place of execution, and on Friday next, between the hours of 10 A. M. and 2 P. M., be hung by the neck until you are dead!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The other is the police station, whence officers make occasional sallies to round up drivers or follow up a crime identified by the CCTV operators.’

Usage

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

Origin

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

Pronunciation:

whence

/wɛns/