Directional adverbs in Middle English (whence, whither)

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Senior Member
Good morning, fellow Forum dwellers!

Last night as I was reading some of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories and I once again became aware of some great antique words which I had not heard in a long time. I was especially interested in the directional adverb system.

I remember that whence means "from where" and whither means "to where". Are there any other words of this kind that combine a preposition and an adverb? I was thinking of Latin.

Ubi - where
Quo - to where
Unde - from where
Per - "through where" (transit through a place)

Well, I just wanted to put this question out there and ask when we changed this system to use "to" plus the static adverb of location.
Thank you! Have a great day!
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    "...when we changed this system ..." :)
    What an orderly view of English that suggests.

    Looking through the date charts in the OED it would appear that both whence and whither were in regular use until around the mid-nineteenth century. Thereafter they fade, except in deliberate use to provoke an sense of the archaic.

    Whither had a brief revival some time ago in the form of short pithy questions such as "Whither democracy?"


    Senior Member
    Hello Panjandrum,

    Thank you very much for your reply. It is true, languages are constantly changing, but changes such as the reconstruction of this locational adverbial system (if I may label it that) do not take place overnight and I made it sound very simplistic in my question. I then wonder what provoked such a change... Maybe it was confusing for native speakers to remember so many words and the periphrasis proved easier to remember... "to/from" + "where". There may not be an answer as to why.

    I did find this chart that does a nice job resuming of what the system consisted.

    Have a nice day, and if you'd like to make any further comments, please feel free to do so!
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