Etymology Corner – ‘Wuthering’

Last week Emily Brontë and Kate Bush shared a birthday. To celebrate Bush’s 57th and Brontë’s 197th, we delve into the origin of the wonderfully Gothic ‘wuthering’.

The title of Emily Brontë’s classic novel Wuthering Heights refers to the name of a haunted farmhouse in an exposed moorland location. Brontë explains that the provincial adjective ‘wuthering’ is ‘descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather’.

‘Wuthering’ is an old Yorkshire dialect word, characteristic of the regional flavour with which Brontë imbues her work. It is the Yorkshire form of a mainly Scottish dialect word ‘whitherin’. This comes from the now obsolete verb ‘whither’, which meant ‘to blow’, and ultimately comes from an Old Norse word ‘hvitha’ meaning ‘a squall of wind’.

We no longer use ‘whitherin’ or ‘whither’, but thanks to Emily Brontë (and perhaps also to Kate Bush) there is still a place for ‘wuthering’ in the dictionary.

Other Articles

Global Beatles Day

This Saturday 25 June is Global Beatles Day. Yes, that’s right: such a worldwide influence have the Beatles had that a day in the year is devoted to them and their legacy. They were the soundtrack to the lives of many people… Read More

Cheers! 4 unforgettable literary wines

Virginia Woolf once said, ‘language is wine upon the lips’, and we are very much inclined to agree. After all, is there a more classic pairing than a good book and a glass of wine? In literature, it seems absolutely not. For centuries, writers have written of gourmet feasts and… Read More

The Platinum Jubilee: Celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s 70-year reign

At the start of June, the UK celebrates Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking her seventy years on the throne. In honour of the event, the spring bank holiday has grown by a day and been moved to synchronise with Trooping the Colour, which marks… Read More