Q From Kirstin Cruikshank: Have you any idea where to wit came from?
A To wit is now just a fixed expression. It’s a shortened form of that is to wit meaning “that is to know; that is to say; namely”, from the English verb wit “to know”. This was a strong verb with past tense wot, as in “A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot”. In Old English it was spelt witan, and even further back it was linked with a Germanic verb meaning “to see”. In the first of these senses, it’s closely connected with the modern German verb wissen; in the second it’s the origin of our witness. It developed further to refer to a person’s understanding or judgement or mind (hence “keep your wits about you”).
Search World Wide Words
Recently added pieces
Boot and trunk; Zoilism; Fish-faced; Poach; Immensikoff; Habiliments; The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker; Agister; The Word at War; Not so green as you’re cabbage-looking; Peely-wally; Draw a line in the sand; Porphyrogeniture; Set one’s cap at; Epicaricacy; Furthest and farthest; Hide one’s light under a bushel; Jentacular.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!