: in the past : formerly
What had erstwhile been acres of wetland was eventually developed into a thriving residential neighborhood.
"The participants proceeded with civility and purpose. Meetings that erstwhile had taken entire days were concluded with agreement in an hour or two." — Greg Behrman, The Most Noble Adventure, 2007
Did You Know?
The adverb erstwhile has been part of English since at least the 16th century, but it is formed from two words that are much older. It comes from the Old English words aer, meaning "early," and hwil, which has the same meaning as the modern word while. (The English word ere, meaning "before," is also a descendant of aer.) These days erstwhile is more likely to be encountered as an adjective, as in "erstwhile enemies." That adjective use is a much more recent development, having joined the language about three centuries after the adverb.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of erstwhile: h _ _ to _ i _ a _ ly.VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP