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wanwit, n.

Brit. /ˈwɒnwɪt/
U.S. /ˈwɑnwɪt/
Scottish /ˈwɔnwɪt/
Forms:  lME uanwite, lME wanewit, lME wanwyt; Scottish pre-17 vanvit, pre-17 wanewyt, pre-17 wanwit, pre-17 wanwitt, pre-17 wanwyt. (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: wan- prefix, wit n.
Etymology: < wan- prefix + wit n.
Compare Old Icelandic vanvit   want of thought, Old Swedish vanvit   foolishness (Swedish vanvett   insanity), Old Danish wanwit   (Danish vanvid   insanity).
Compare earlier unwit n.  
In sense 2   perhaps by association with wantwit n.
Compare also the adjectives Old High German wanawizzi   foolish (Middle High German wanwiz  , wanwitze   foolish, early modern German wanwitz   foolish, insane), Old Icelandic vanvita   insane, Old Swedish vanvita   foolish, and also the forms cited at wanwitty adj.  
Compare further ( < the adjective) German Wahnwitz   insanity (16th cent. as wanwitz  ; subsequently with remodelling of the first element after Wahn   delusion: see ween n.).
Chiefly Scottish.

1. Foolishness, witlessness. Obsolete.

a1425   Symbols of Passion (Royal) l. 72 in R. Morris Legends Holy Rood (1871) 180 (MED)   Schild me from pein of helle pit, Þat i haue deseruud þorow uan-wite.
c1485  (▸1456)    G. Hay Bk. Law of Armys (2005) 282   Prodigalitee..cummys of grete foly and wan witt.
a1500  (c1410)    Dives & Pauper (Hunterian) (1976) i. 305 (MED)   We arn bondyn to helpyn our bodely fadir & moodir..nout..skornyn hem..for non wanwyt ne folye þat þey seyn or don.
a1500  (c1425)    Andrew of Wyntoun Oryg. Cron. Scotl. (Nero) vi. Prol. l. 48   Giff it war wilfully forȝhet, It walde be repute vnkyndnes, Wanwit, or þan reklessnes.

a1425—a1500(Hide quotations)


 2. colloquial. A foolish, witless, or insane person; an idiot; a lunatic. Now archaic and rare.

1837   A. Crawfurd Cairn of Lochwinnoch MSS XI. 321 in Sc. National Dict. (at cited word)   Her brother David was rather a wanwit or sillie-daft man.
1952   Dublin Mag. Jan. 4   These are the waters of broken music; Here the wanwit Ophelia bore Ragged song and dabbled flower.
1991   I. L. Black Mischievous Miss ix. 118   Leddy, are you stupid? A wanwit, here-and-thereian? There ain't no innocents in Newgate, less you got money.

1837—1991(Hide quotations)




wanwitty adj. Obsolete foolish, witless.  [Compare Middle Dutch wanwittich insane (Dutch †wanwittig), Middle Low German wanwittich insane, Middle High German wanwitzic foolish (German wahnwitzig insane), Swedish vanvettig insane, Old Danish, Danish vanvittig insane.]

a1500   Wisdom of Solomon (Cambr. Kk.1.5) in R. Girvan Ratis Raving & Other Early Scots Poems (1939) 180   Fulys and wanwitty men.

a1500—a1500(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2016).

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