What About Hence?

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Commenting on my recent post about whence and thence, a reader asks,

Don’t “whence” and “thence” have a third sibling, “hence?”  “From where,” “from there,” and “from here?” And shouldn’t we meet their cousins, “whither,” “thither” and “hither?”

Hence deserves a post to itself. This lovely word has several applications.

Like thence, hence can refer to location:

The town is only a mile hence (i.e., the town is only a mile from this place).

Get thee hence, Satan (i.e., Get away from this place, Satan).

Hence can also be used as a command meaning depart, as in the fairy song in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legg’d spinners, hence!

Also like thence, hence can refer to time:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence (sometime in the future).

20 Years Hence – What Do Oil, Dating, Digital, and Analytics Have In Common? (20 years from now).

This example from the LA Times shows hence used to mean “since that time”:

Yet, 50 years hence, the impact of Watts on California’s politics is negligible.


Hence can function as a conjunctive adverb in the sense of therefore:

I have life insurance with my job; hence, I’m worth more dead than alive.

Hence can be followed directly by a noun or an adjective:

TV election debates don’t fit the UK democratic system. Hence the chaos.

What you defend is purely racist, hence despicable.

Here are some synonyms for hence in addition to therefore and thus:
for this reason
as a result
because of that
that being so

Cousins whither, thither, and hither will have to wait for their own post.

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