wan-

Here’s a great prefix: wan-. It is the affixed form of the adjective wane (related to the verb wane). It is “a prefix expressing privation or negation (approximately equivalent to UN- prefix or MIS- prefix)”, so says the OED. It was very common in Old English, but had more-or-less wholly died out by Middle English. I think it’s a great little affix and could be brought back to life as a useful variant to distinguish it from un– and mis– words; perhaps we could use it as a like-for-like (=equivalent) of “anti-“… We might need to say it the stressed way, though: wane.

How many words do you think you can make up using this affix? Do people understand you? Here are some great English words that have this prefix — sadly, all of these words are no longer in use.

  • wanbody n miscreant, infidel (“body” as in “anybody”, meaning “any person/individual”)
  • wandought n, adj (said as “won-dawt”) a feeble or puny person; feeble, ineffective, worthless
  • wanhap n misfortune (think “mishap”, “hap” meaning “luck, chance”)
  • wanhope n, adj, v despair, hopelessness; to despair; despairing.
  • wanhue v to stain (that is, to give a bad hue/colour to a thing)
  • wanluck n unhappy fate
  • wansome adj miserable, unhappy
  • wanspeed n ill-success, adversity, poverty (think speed as in God speed).
  • wanthriven adj failing to thrive, stunted
  • wanton n, adj as in… wanton(!)
  • wantruke n failure, doubt (from wan– + troke “to fail, lack, deceive”)
  • wantrust n distrust, doubt
    • Why did we ever bother to borrow doubt when we had wantrust and mistrust? We also had twēo and twēogan/twēonian in Old English using the root for “two”, just like in German! So why not even something like “twofulness”?
  • wantruth n lack of belief, especially proper Christian belief, a state of unbelief
  • wanweird n ill-fate, misfortune
    • Weird is the original English word for “fate, destiny”, hence the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare.
  • wanwit n foolishness, witlessness; a foolish or witless person;
  • wanworth n, adj a price below the real value, an undervalue, a bargain; a worthless person, a good-for-nothing, a trifle; worthless, unworthy.

Now you only have to work out if you say “wan” to rhyme with “can” or “con”.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.jasondemakis.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/phasesofthemood.jpg

 

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6 Responses to wan-

  1. simonjkyte says:

    in answer to the last … might it not depend if you are saxon or anglian?

    • bryanajparry says:

      Hi Simon, extremely good point, there. However, the difference between, say, “lond” and “land” which you allude to is not quite the same as “won” or “wan”. I believe that in , the vowel became rounded as in “wander”, “want”, “swarty”, “wart”, “wall”, and so on. Only later did the spelling pronunciation creep back in — as it has with “twat”.

  2. Jeff Arial says:

    Since “wanton” in still in use today, I would say we base it off that pronunciation.

    For “equivalent”, Wiktionary has an entry for “evenlike”, which means “Characteristically even, equal, or level.” A good evenlike for “equivalent”?

  3. Unoverwordinesslogged says:

    happened upon this talkfall anent the wan- forefast
    http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/forums/viewthread/2332/
    If this post works, will do a follow-up post with a lengthy list of wan- words, attested!

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