wid·​der·​shins ˈwi-dər-shənz How to pronounce widdershins (audio)
variants or less commonly
: in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction : counterclockwise compare deasil

Did you know?

English speakers today are most likely to encounter widdershins as a synonym of counterclockwise. But in earliest known uses, found in texts from the early 1500s, widdershins was used more broadly in the sense of "in the wrong way or opposite direction." To say that one's hair "stood widdershins" was, in essence, to say that one was having a bad hair day. By the mid-1500s, English speakers had adopted widdershins to specifically describe movement opposite to the apparent clockwise direction (as seen from the northern hemisphere) of the sun traveling across the sky, which, at the time, could be considered evil or unlucky. The word originates from the Old High German widar, meaning "back" or "against," and sinnen, meaning "to travel."

Word History


Middle Low German weddersinnes, from Middle High German widersinnes, from widersinnen to go against, from wider back against (from Old High German widar) + sinnen to travel, go; akin to Old High German sendan to send — more at with, send

First Known Use

1545, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of widdershins was in 1545


Dictionary Entries Near widdershins

Cite this Entry

“Widdershins.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/widdershins. Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

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