: begone
aroint thee, witchWilliam Shakespeare

Word History


of uncertain origin

Note: The word aroint is used by Shakespeare twice, in King Lear III.4 ("and aroynt thee Witch, aroynt thee" in the 1623 first folio; spelled arynt in the 1608 quarto) and Macbeth I.3 ("Aroynt thee, Witch, the rumpe-fed Ronyon cryes"). All subsequent occurrences in English are based on these passages. It is conventionally taken to be an imperative verb with the sense "be off, begone," though given the lack of any other record, this interpretation is conjectural. A comprehensive survey of etymologies for aroint stretching back to the 18th century is given by Anatoly Liberman in "Shakespeare's aroint thee witch for the Last Time?", Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, vol. 115, no. 1 (2014), pp. 55-62. Liberman's preferred hypothesis, that aroynt thee is a reduction of a rowan tree as a sort of apotropaic formula directed to a witch, is not entirely convincing.

First Known Use

1605, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of aroint was in 1605

Dictionary Entries Near aroint

Cite this Entry

“Aroint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

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