: familiar friends, neighbors, or relatives
kith and kin

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The Evolution of Kith

If you’d used the word kith a thousand years ago, you might have been referring to knowledge, or to a homeland, or possibly to your neighbors and acquaintances. While those first two meanings of kith have long since fallen out of use, the word endures with a meaning very close to that “neighbors and acquaintances” one. Today kith appears almost exclusively in the phrase kith and kin, meaning “friends and relatives.” (Kin, another ancient word, can also refer independently to relatives.) Occasionally you will see kith and kin used to refer only to family members, much to the chagrin of those who despise redundancy in language. If you wish to avoid redundancy charges you’ll be sure to include friends as well as family among your “kith and kin.”

Examples of kith in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Timothy Treadwell, an environmentalist and a filmmaker who lived with brown bears in Alaska for thirteen summers, loved the bears, thought of them as his friends, his kith and his kin. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 17 July 2023 They were being held to the same standards as the rest of the world, forced to confront political realities that were previously beyond their kith. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, 30 Dec. 2020 All familiar sights around Christmas, when the social obligations of the festive season draw people together with their kith and kin. Elisabeth Blagrove, Quartz, 25 Dec. 2019 According to Ms Debos, the need for France’s intervention showed that some high-ranking officers were unwilling to fight their kith and kin among the rebels. The Economist, 18 July 2019 Although Edward IV had the Lancastrian King Henry VI secretly murdered in the Tower in 1471, to close off the enemy dynasty, Richard couldn’t get away with the same thing with his own kith and kin 12 years later. Andrew Roberts, WSJ, 30 Apr. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'kith.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old English cȳthth; akin to cūth known — more at uncouth

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of kith was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near kith

Cite this Entry

“Kith.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: familiar friends and neighbors or relatives
kith and kin

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